When She Says She Loves Me… Why Equality Matters

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1621773_510262802411101_8063516498862622385_nThe other day, my fiancee and I had a brief, yet looming encounter with a man who felt it necessary to speak loudly about his disapproval of what he called “gay marriage.” As we tried to disengage and stay focused on our own coffee and conversation, it was apparent that unless she said otherwise, I was going to address this man, for aggressively stating his unsolicited opinion over us, from 7 feet away. “If they can marry, it will be a disaster. God made man and woman…” he continued.

I asked my fiancee if she would mind giving me a kiss, as we got up to walk away. She agreed and after we shared an affectionate peck, I turned to him and said, “We are not a disaster,” and we walked away. Before walking away, we both heard him say in a slimy perverted tone, “Well I like that.”

Of course you do, you double-minded, broken old man,” I wanted to say.

Instead, we walked away and I felt this piece welling up in my heart… some words I have never said about marriage equality… some words I’ve never said about the woman who wants to marry me… some words that I hope will mirror what many of us are saying, when we say that equality matters.

Equality matters because when she says she loves me…

She is saying that of all the people who have crossed her path, the day she met me, something changed for the better.

She is saying that of all the outcomes she could have for her life, none of them would be as meaningful without me in the picture.

She is saying that when she seeks comfort, wisdom, rest, joy, or a sense of hope, she considers me a source.

She is saying that if there is a God, this love is the kind upon which God smiles. 

She is saying that feeling safe and loved now includes knowing if I am feeling safe and loved.

She is saying her future and my future now interconnect in ways that make the past a story to cherish and an influence to honor.

Equality matters because love matters… because her words matter more to me than any other woman who whispered, “I love you,” into my ear.

Equality matters… because eventually for some of us, there is one person who comes along and says these things in a way that changes everything for the better…

And what reasonable society would call this a disaster or a departure from what is good about humanity?

This is all we are saying, when we say equality matters. This… nothing more and nothing less.

This post is dedicated to all who have been on the receiving end of an “I love you,” that put an end to all your doubts about why those words matter… and to my fiancee, for being brave enough to say them until I could believe in them again.

~~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

Silencing the External Critics

truetoherselfThis post is for the survivors – those who survived bullying, be it religious or social, medical or psychological… Are we done being told to amputate ourselves from ourselves? This post is for you…

For those who are weary, from being told that their hearts are corrupt, because they love someone of the same gender.

For those who are grief-stricken, from being told that their faith is useless, because it doesn’t fit inside the four walls of the Church.

For those who are overwhelmed, from being told that the body has failed, because it won’t comply with each medical procedure that keeps it sick.

For those who are angry, from being told that their minds are too wild, because the brain is supposed to behave and yours refuses.

For those who are frustrated, from being told that gender is either right or wrong, because we live in a binary world and you have to be “normal.”

For those who are lonely, from being told that their dreams are weird, because they think too big.

For those who scream in the woods, hoping the trees will hear them, wishing for a god who responds, longing for a friend who can feel their anguish, or seeking a creature that will stir…

I see that you have fallen.

I hear that you feel broken.

I have crawled there too and I am here to say this:

They thought I needed to repair my sexuality, and so I studied, I prayed, I counseled, I wept, I surrendered, and I amputated myself, from myself – they were wrong. We silence them in our minds today. There is no echo. They are gone.

They thought I needed to repair my brain, and so I took the medications, I changed my routines, I let go of my dreams, I surrendered, and I amputated myself, from myself – they were wrong. We silence them in our minds today. There is no echo. They are gone.

They thought I needed to repair my body, and so I was going to give in to their surgeries, their pills, and their injections…

But that is where I drew a line. For once, I trusted the pain, I trusted the process, I trusted my body and my heart…

And I did not surrender!

I did not amputate myself, from myself.

And for once… I was right, with me.

And that is the voice within each of us, that we open ourselves up to today, in order to do more than echo within our own heads, but to reverberate and ripple throughout the Universe.

The critics, the bullies, the fundamentalists – they are gone.

And we are here.

Our collective voice is strong and like the oak trees, maple leaves, and bushes that litter the wild, we turn what they call chaos into cycles of growth, acceptance, loss, and rebirth.

We will not be trimmed and amputated, but we are refined by this acceptance: We are who we are.

And we are whole, not because the external critics say so…

But because within, there is a still small voice that plainly says, “Enough is enough.”

Listen to it…

It is your truth.

Namaste, yo.

~~

Disclaimer: I have been undergoing a variety of medical, psychological, spiritual, and energetic treatments for so-called disorders of the body, mind, and soul for the last 15 years. In the course of being misdiagnosed, over-medicated, judged, isolated, and minimized, I learned that more than anything, I was misunderstood. This post does not claim that all conditions are invalid, but that people, relationships, and the power to rise above will always trump labels, judgments, doctor interference, psychological conjecture, and religious assumption – always. Relationships with the self and others… win out.

~~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

Evolution of Friends: An Ode to Facebook

Facebook_EvolutionFor as much as I am an open critic of how social media can interfere with “real life” relationships and general social/emotional intelligence of one’s local community, it also remains one of my greatest tools for a sense of companionship and connection to my readers.

My readers are, in short, my friends. Many of my blog and status readers have not become “purchasers” of my two books, “Enlightened-ish” or “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams.” On the contrary, they are an extension of the artistic process behind those books, each blog, and the many books I have yet to bring forth from inside my soul. I have books I will write about spirituality, early childhood education, how physical pain affects relationships, and various other topics along the way… many of my “books readers” will not be the people on my Facebook page.

My Facebook friends showed empathy when I was grieving my dog’s death.

My Facebook friends listen to me vent about how it feels to run a small non-profit.

My Facebook friends offer their stories about recovering from religious fundamentalism or bullying.

My Facebook friends share memes that inspire, links that spark my interest, and anecdotes that keep me focused on what is pleasant and inspiring in the world.

My Facebook friends send me messages to check in on me when my fiancee is on travel for work.

My Facebook friends provide links about my books or my school, when they themselves cannot afford to support a self-published author or a non-profit pre-school.

My Facebook friends tolerate my introversion! ;)

My Facebook friends were there for me when my heart was broken, my career was uncertain, my body was deteriorating, my father died, my mother was recovering from surgery, and my sense of purpose as a writer was shaken. They never assume I’m okay. They ask. They never assume I’m figuring it out… they check in… and I do the same for them, as much as I can…

I know it’s “only” Facebook to many people and because of the “politics” of it, I too get frustrated by the group think or privacy issues that arise from this cyber-connection. However, there are friends here… there are atheists with whom I find common ground, Christians who inspire, Buddhists who challenge, agnostics who exemplify peace, elderly people who strengthen my heart, and young people whose joy for life keeps me going… and funny people – you can all make me laugh!

As I get older, I’m sure that my writing career will evolve into the full-time gig that I hope it will become… I’m sure that my career in early childhood education will evolve into an influence far greater than I realize…

But the evolution of what it means to have a “friend” in the world, is the greatest gift for me.

All of you… are a gift.

I invite you to share this post and tag the friends you’ve met because of Facebook… for all that irks us, may we be also filled with a fascination for the synchronicity of our relationships…

My Facebook Friends have been there when my real life friends could not… and this is the kind of evolution that takes us to a global appreciation.

We are One, yo.

A song… for my Facebook Friends… 

~~

 

I Love. Help Me Understand… What’s Wrong with That?

engagement_photoComing out wasn’t easy. Having it be assumed that I’m engaged to a man, also makes coming out a “repeat as necessary,” kind of event. “Will they smirk? Will they show acceptance? Will they be kind?” – These are all questions I ask myself before I mention my fiancee by name, use the “she” pronoun, and prepare myself up for whatever reply comes…

For over a decade, no matter what relationship I have been in, I have stood firm for equality and allowed my personal life to be a part of my advocacy world. However, in this marriage-to-be, I finally see why it has mattered all along. It matters because love is love, but it also matters because I don’t think I can stomach having our beautiful relationship obliterated by selfish opinions or judged so harshly. I’m not saying my previous relationships weren’t valid – they were in their own seasonal way… but this is a lifetime commitment to a woman who deserves everything I have to offer, as a partner, friend, and lover. The closer we get to our wedding day, the more I recognize that I simply do not understand any resistance to our love. Why do I live in a state and/or society where love is viewed as wrong? Please tell me because I do not understand…

I love the way she tells a story about her day, with animation and zest for communication.

I love the way she cares for her younger sisters and is one of the best examples of a big sister that I’ve ever seen.

I love the way she stays true to her passions for financial inclusion to those who don’t have resources to fulfill their dreams, support their own families, and have hope within reach.

DSC_0463I love the way she can make me smile, by barely trying.

I love that she finds my graying curly hair attractive and even sexy.

I love the way she makes me want to believe in a God again, because the kind of magic we share seems impossible without divine intervention.

I love the way she shows up for me, when I feel like people can be unjust, misleading or exclusive.

I love the way she thinks of her elders and cherishes the mentors in her life.

I love the way she enters a room with a light in her eye.

I love the way she takes the dog outside on weekend mornings, to give me a few extra moments in bed. Looking_Same_Serj

I love the way we suggest we eat breakfast together sometimes so we have at least a moment untouched by the hectic day ahead.

I love the way we are planning our wedding like it’s a party where all our friends/family can come and be themselves.

I love the way we create silly moments and simple pleasures that are forever ours.

I love the way we are learning to be our better selves, in this marriage-to-be.

I love the way we recognize and honor all we went through to find each other…

I love… the way we love…

Help me understand…

What’s wrong with that?

Mi amor, you have my heart… and I love knowing you are the one who made me believe again, in finding “the one.” ;)

~~

1621773_510262802411101_8063516498862622385_nGail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

Good Cop, Bad Cop, White Cop, Black Cop: Don’t Forget THIS!

In the middle of all the injustices in the world, I saw something today that I doubt will go viral.

It won’t go viral because in today’s climate where we discuss racism and overly aggressive police actions/brutality, we are not likely to “see” the good in our police forces, or in each other. Just hang out on Facebook long enough and you can’t tell if you should be dumping ice on your head, donating to a charity of your own choice, or hell-raising for reproductive rights, equality, or and end to racism. #Ferguson is one of many much needed conversations…

But this one is also needed: #goodinhumanity

Today, as I approached a familiar intersection, I was on the phone with my mom and I said, “Wait. Mom… I need to go. There are cops all around and I need to see this.”

This is what I noticed first…

photo 4The cop with the external bullet proof vest, was black.

I did notice that.

Then I noticed how the van was stopped… two other police cruisers were there in a moment’s notice and zipped through the bystanders, until we were all stopped, bearing witness to the scene as it unfolded…

In a matter of a few flashes of my camera phone, I captured a very intense police action.

The armed black cop ran away from the white cop, flagged down a passerby…

photo 5

And he must have said, “Sir, please stay in the car!”

Because then the other two cops, got out of their vehicles and ran over to the van as this happened…

photo 2Two white cops pushed the van backwards… until the driver could get it out of the middle of the road…

photo 1And this… is all they did. The van had broken down… the driver, probably frustrated, sad, scared, annoyed – and the whole group of officers, provided aid to the driver.

This… is the thankless world of police officers, every day.

Black, white, whatever – lest we forget – they are in fact here to protect and serve… And there is still good in humanity.

I urge you all to remind yourselves of this very fact. Yes, we need justice… and will continue to seek it!

But we sound like we are singing silly nursery rhymes if all we know to ask is, “Good cop, bad cop, black cop, white cop.

There. is. good. in. humanity.

Please #goodinhumanity and make that viral. We all could use it.

Namaste, yo. (Yes, btw, the hashtag is purposefully punny… we see what we want to see in it…)

~~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

Will You Gay Marry Me?

marry_loveFor months, my readers have been asking me to share my engagement story with the world so I decided that as our wedding day approaches in Virginia (hopefully legal, even), it was time I share the big gay details of what makes for a gay marriage story…

~~

Once upon a time, not too long ago, on a local dating site, I clicked “find matches,” and the rest is history. Well, actually, the rest is a long and complicated saga of strange encounters and near misses of U-Haul lesbian maneuvers. However, in the midst of those profile faces, was the woman who I knew I would want to gay marry someday…

Now, of course you may be wondering why I keep calling it “gay marry.” I mean, why not just call it “marriage?” I would, but I think it’s time we gays come clean about our whole intention behind this “equality” phase we seem to be in. All this talk about “equal rights” or “spousal benefits” is really just a smoke screen. We have wanted to gay marry since we were kids…

I’m personally looking forward to gay marrying my fiancee because I know what it is really about – making straight people uncomfortable. Since I was a young girl, all I ever wanted was a white picket fence and a few children I could use as leverage in the suburbs of America, where desperate housewives and sex-starved husbands wait for hot lesbian neighbors to move in and serve as a distraction from their unsatisfying lives. I’m finally living that dream out and I have to say – Virginia is close to lifting the ban on same-sex marriages and it couldn’t come at a better time! My dream of gay marrying is hopefully only a few court judges and lawyers away from becoming a reality.

What you probably didn’t know about gay marrying is that we actually propose that way too. When I got down on one gay knee, looked up passionately at my beautiful partner, and thought about our gay life together, I actually blurted out, “Gay!” before I even asked her to marry me. She started her reply, as instructed in the Gay Agenda Manual: “Rainbows, parades, and equal rights! Hell yeah, I will gay marry you.”

It was so romantic.

I never knew that getting gay married would lead to so many opportunities to make some straight people uncomfortable! I guess that’s why I was gay engaged before… it’s something I just knew I would eventually get right. Finding someone who will gay marry me because of all of our common gay interests, our gay affection, and our gay respect for one another - I’m so gay lucky! Gay marrying – the only thing I will probably enjoy more is gay parenting! It will be the perfect addendum to all that gay walking I do, gay eating, and of course, gay breathing.

So, I guess the story is out there now…

You know a bit more about our en-GAY-gement story. ;)

It’s really just another match made in gay heaven, my friends.

~~

Truth be told, my fiancee and I aim to write a book about our experiences and believe me… there is nothing about intimacy, commitment, sexuality, sensuality, spirituality, and companionship that really has to do with being gay. It’s time we all grow up – marriage is marriage. Love is love.

And satire is satire… it aims to amplify a more socially and emotionally intelligent perspective.

It’s not gay marriage.

It’s marriage.

And I want it… with her.

Get out of our way, Virginia. We promise we won’t gay grocery shop, gay dog walk, gay pump our gas, gay coffee drink, gay… insert fading gay voice…

Feel free to gay comment, gay share, and gay “like…”

~~

Gail Author PhotoGail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

A Recovering Christian’s Unique Support of an “Online Pastor:” Keep Mark Sandlin Blogging

Leaving Christianity behind has been the most important move in my social and emotional health, however, I do still learn a lot from what is often referred to as “progressive” Christianity. My critiques of Christianity are almost always more about the “church” rather than the teachings of the person of Jesus, who they called the Christ. Though I personally detach from the label of Christian, I find that my respect for one “online pastor” remains unwavering and in an effort to offer a final “olive branch” to my former faith, as well as support a reform of what is currently perceived as “Christianity,” I am hereby offering 50% of my books sales to Rev. Mark Sandlin and his efforts to be a voice of social justice, inclusion, and diversity in Christianity. From today, August 7, 2014 – December 31, 2014, you can support a progressive pastor’s attempts to be a voice of reason and faith, in a society that cannot help but associate Christianity with misogyny, bigotry, homophobia, and intolerance. Just click the links here or here to purchase any copies of my books, in any formats, and as quarterly checks come in, I will share an update for you, so you know how he is receiving your contribution and “vote of confidence” in this matter. You get a good book or two, and the social media world keeps their “on-line pastor,” whose public presence continues to keep fundamentalism in check. To boot, it just so happens, Rev. Mark endorsed Enlightened-ish when he had this to say about it:

“What’s unique about Enlightened-ish is its small step approach to spiritual awakening. What’s most engaging about it is how Gail’s bright and relatable personality shines through on every page. If you are looking for an open and accessible path toward connecting with the Sacred, you may just find that Enlightened-ish is more than an acceptable-ish place to start.” – Rev. Mark Sandlin, The God Article and Christians for a Change

Sending much love and light for your journey, Mark… and to all who feel like an underdog in their calling. Some of us have words worth paying for… so let’s change the culture so you can do this for a living. ;) Namaste, yo.

To support Mark directly, please see his site here. To read more about how he got to this point in his calling, check out this link.

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DSC_0821Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose recent book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

When Church Leaders Abuse… Kissing Christianity Goodbye

I have remained silent about a very important issue that I faced when I was working with church_leadersyoung male leaders in some of my country’s largest “mega-churches.” I remained silent because of my own triggers related to child sexual abuse, but today, as I learned of the abuses related to Joshua Harris’ ministries, it felt like time for me to explain what I saw, what I learned, and how it influenced my spiritual identity… in short, the church’s overall lack of sexual ethic continues to be one of the reasons I cannot call Christianity a safe spiritual path, particularly for the young or vulnerable.

First, let’s begin with a young closeted lesbian in a male-dominated culture of youth ministry: There, we find me, at the ripe age of 18, beginning my journey at Cincinnati Christian University. Upon my arrival to the wild world of Bible College, I was immediately challenged about my desires to work with young people, because as a woman, it would not be “biblical” for me to teach over men. BAM. Welcome to a new brand of fundamentalism. I was a United Methodist “do-gooder” at heart and a Christian Charismatic in practice and while that clash itself was enough to make my faith experience contradictory, these ideas about silencing women didn’t make any sense to me socially, let alone “Biblically.” Of all the nonsense I can recount from my time in the Pentecostal youth group (introducing me to conversion therapy, being one sin of their fold), I will say that silencing the women was rarely an angle in those groups. Those women could blabber in tongues, interpret the men, and stand firm as prophetesses akin with Deborah of the Old Testament and the firm leadership of any woman in the New Testament whose story made its patriarchal pages.

But, at Bible College, still young in my church leadership training, I was informed that women… were supposed to be silent. In fact, I even had one older classmate (and later, a professor also confirmed), that if I wanted to be a youth minister, I should marry one…

youth_ministryFast forward to 1998, when I left Bible College on a much-needed break from the “study” of God’s Word, to the living out of such texts of supposed faith. In full “Hebrews” form, I took a leap of faith to work at Central Christian Church as an intern in the Senior High Youth Ministry Department. Here at Central, I discovered much freedom when it came to theology, as my host family opened up a beer here and there and my “bosses” and colleagues all used cuss words creatively. Refreshing, right? Awesome PowerPoint, awesome music, and awesome use of the words we were told were bad… just add pizza parties and trips to the beach and we have ourselves a “cool” group of youth pastors. In the end, what we thought we were doing was “loving people” into a relationship with Jesus. It all looked so good until my own psychological triggers came to the forefront…

They always wondered what happened, that I got so depressed. They always questioned, what shifted, when I started to have random outbursts, needing to be heard and affirmed in my ideas. I remember it now vividly of signs of PTSD. But what happened? What sparked my insecurities? What happened that I felt oppressed in a more progressive theological setting?

I was only 20 years old, in a patriarchal environment, away from my family and friends, looking for an answer to one single question that came up during my initial Youth Minister’s Conference:

“Why did a group of men just tell me to keep quiet about sexual misconduct among leaders of their youth groups?”

My first youth ministry conference included men from all over the nation – leaders in the currently jam-packed mega-churches where thousands of innocent “seekers” trust their families and children to “God’s” leaders. There were a few women “colleagues” in this setting of church leaders, but  most, to my dismay, were the wives of youth ministers… or they were the children’s ministry leaders.

Like a fish out of water, I was out of place within the first few sessions. Midway through the event, I was taken aside by men who thought they had power over me because of their gender, and told to “Do my time before speaking up,” and remember that, “I’m new so my ideas don’t matter yet.” I tried to be a little less idealistic and started to quiet down, like a good woman should…

Until we were in small groups, discussing the obstacles of youth ministry, and one youth pastor from a large church in the mid-west started to explain, “When I have sex with my wife, I think of some of the girls in my youth group.”

Yes. Really.

Oddly enough, just hearing those words was enough to shut me up for a minute! Startled into silence, I listened as others in the group, all men, of course, consoled him, told him it was natural, and continued to use “grace” as a tool for dealing with this man’s guilt over his confession of lusting for power over young women in a sexual context.

At that moment, I didn’t want to shame him either, because as a lesbian, what I know more than anything, is how much shame there is about sexuality, when it comes to Christian teaching.

But… there had to be another response, other than, “Dude, let’s pray for you,” or “Give it to the Lord, man… I’ve been there.” Couldn’t these “accountability” partners do more than say, “Brother, that took courage to admit?”

As a closeted lesbian, I wasn’t sure how to respond… but I finally did.

And I’ll never forget what happened because of my response.

Quietly I spoke up and asked, “Are you sure you shouldn’t get some help and maybe take a break from ministry for a bit?”

Nothing could have been more offensive, apparently! Whisked off into a private aside, I was reminded again, by a man I did not know, that it was not my place to even offer this advice.

I was out of line.

I was being rebellious.

I was…

Speaking up for social and emotional intelligence, the health and wellness of my colleague, and the protection of the young women in his care!

I see that now, almost two decades removed from this experience.

But then, in that moment, all I could do was swallow the tears that were welling up in my eyes, stifle the rage in my soul, and let these men teach me something. Surrendering to their authority… I sat quietly throughout most of the conference…

And I sat quietly about this whole incident… until today, when I stumbled across the article about Joshua Harris… how the author of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” was involved with a ministry that covered up sexual abuse. (And he consequently removed himself from a connection to that ministry). Rather than even getting the facts and interviews, tracing blame, or trying to find out who was responsible for the shameful cover-up, I admit that I clicked away from all the open links on my browser… and sat down and cried.

I cried for all the young women who have been sexualized by their youth ministers.

I cried for all the young men who have been shamed into thinking that getting help was a sign of faithlessness.

I cried for all the young families whose ideals of Family and Church continue to be shaken by the lack of sexuality education and ethics among church leaders.

Finally…

I cried… for the 12-year old girl, who was objectified by her 17-year old neighbor… I was previously unexposed to sexual innuendos and advances… a victim of a culture of silence.

I cried for that girl, who is begging me now, to come forward and say that among the many reasons that I Kissed Christianity Goodbye, lies the objectification of women, the diminishing of the divine feminine… and the grand cover-up of the men who lack sexual ethics, teaching, or wisdom.

This post is a post that I write not to accuse my former colleagues and not to promote a fear response from any religious folk who attend Christian churches – this post is something I write to affirm that sexual ethics cannot be taught by those who have none…

Sexual ethics cannot be affirmed by those who have only studied one source on the topic – a source that oppresses women and shames sexual expression.

Sexual ethics cannot be affirmed by those who have been indoctrinated to secrecy of those things which they cannot understand or accept.

Sexual ethics cannot be affirmed by a cult of Jesus’ personality that lacks boundaries, honesty, and even the ability to self-regulate and seek help when needed.

For years after my time at Central Christian, I underwent various forms of therapy, as I uncovered all of the triggers of my own experience in sexual abuse, as a vulnerable young woman and closeted lesbian.

Now, all these years later, all I can ask of current church leaders is this: Do you still ask “the Lord” to do what only psychologists and mental health care professionals can do? Do you still shame what you do not understand? Do you still come behind the women in your congregations and tie their hands being their backs with your words? Do you still lust over the innocence of those in your keep?

The shame is not only in the actions, but in the beliefs that lead to such actions.

Ask me again why I Kissed Christianity Goodbye… as if I needed only one reason – this would have been enough.

Namaste, my friends… gird your loins, as the Church continues to shield itself from responsibility, in many secret meetings and conferences across the nation. I have no doubt about it…

~~

FYI, a bit Joshua Harris’ story recounted here - A sexual abuse survivor who should certainly know better than to continue to shame anyone, honestly… maybe there can be hope for some congregations.

For further reading/self-education: Ask your congregations to consider THIS curriculum for sexuality education, for all ages. Don’t let the UCC-ers and Unitarians be the only ones wise enough to get this right ;)

~~

I dedicate this post to that inner Youth Minister – I’m not the woman I thought I was going to become, but I am the woman I was meant to be… and I share my story and experience for those who cannot…

A Hobby of Lobbying: Why I am Officially Done with Christianity

simple_hobby_lobbyI have been waiting for a reason, a way, a path, a purpose, a final straw – something that would “click” so that I could definitively walk away from Christianity without feeling a twinge of guilt or shame.

I would like to thank the Supreme Court of the United States for finally showing me that I walked away from Christianity for all the right reasons.

I thought it was because I was abused by fundamentalist teachings.

I thought it was because I was spiritually progressive and not well-received by conservative congregations.

I thought it was because I met too many pastors whose egos kept their congregations from speaking up against social and emotional manipulation.

I thought it was because the church has historically trampled upon women and gays.

Nope. The reason I walked away from Christianity and all it stands for as an institution is because with today’s ruling regarding Hobby Lobby’s crafty designs on women, their bodies and their families, I can see clearly that Christian Dominance is the number one obstacle to equality and social justice in my country and perhaps, a globally underlying theme in human rights violations.

Binary thinking, combined with capitalism and supremacist ideals are dangerous.

I didn’t need a reason to leave… I needed a reason to stay.

And there was none.

It’s simple: Trying to rebrand Christianity (or get it back to its non-political roots), is like trying to claim that the Third Reich was formed out of an outreach to young people who were just searching for community and meaning in life.

There’s no such thing as a good brand of intolerance.

You can’t pretend that some cigarettes are actually good for the lungs.

Why are we still arguing about Christianity as if dominance is okay, as long as it’s particularly friendly to our own causes?

It is the spirit of dominance that has created these wildly gross rulings and corrupt religious systems.

When Christianity gives up this hobby of lobbying for ultimate authority (be it conservative or progressive), then perhaps the highest court in the land will be the level group where social and emotional intelligence runs supreme…

Because it really shouldn’t be a question, whether an employer can rule over an employee’s body. Slavery is enough of a stain on our history and corporations aren’t voters.

I’m ready when you are, folks.

It’s time to paint a pure faith, one that relies on common sense and individual responsibility.

It’s time to carve out a helpful path, one that requires emotional intelligence.

It’s time to make a career out of giving a shit about each other and giving up our agendas for particular faiths.

Practice whatever faith you want, as a hobby…

And lobby for justice, for all.

(P.S. And if you are feeling particularly political about this, consider that politics is able to use Christian beliefs to get their agendas moved forward… and this whole thing was really about Democrats and Republicans, sparring over healthcare reform. Christianity thus, becomes nothing more than a pawn in a larger money-mongering system. Just sayin’. Perhaps religion is the weapon of mass destruction, the opiate of the masses… the gov’t making pawns out of the religious who think this is a win for them… sigh.)

~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

Exodus International: A Year Later… Can Survivors Rest in Peace?

bxg_Losing_ReligionIf you are familiar with my writing or my blog in general, you know that I am a survivor. If you’ve read Enlightened-ish, then you know that my status as “survivor” extends beyond surviving religious fundamentalism and damage from conversion therapy efforts which organizations like Exodus International lied to the public about for decades. I am also a survivor of… life’s darker components such as bullying and sexual abuse. I speak about these things openly not because it is comfortable or even preferred, but because I believe that there is entirely too much fear of authenticity in our cultures of hashtags and half-assed spirituality. Thus, this post, a year later reflects not only on the year anniversary of Exodus International’s closing, but on the collective survivor movement that most of humanity is in, as we all go through an injustice, inequity, abuse, grief, or obstacle that lands us in the awareness of what it takes to thrive in a world that is often not always fair.

When I participated in the Our America piece last year, I had a feeling it would transform my understanding of activism and abuse. Recruiting survivors to be taped in front of their accuser: That’s “good TV” and appears at first, to be a motion of activism, but was it abusive as well? A group of survivors is invited to witness a respected journalist (with a net worth of $8.5 million) as she tries to remain neutral in the face of a man claiming to be apologetic about making a living selling lies about homosexuality’s “cure” through prayer and specialized suppression techniques. Are you familiar with the piece which aired a year ago? Here you go: Watch it again. Is it activism? Or is it abuse?

I personally can’t watch it anymore. Why? Because even in her “review” of her time with Our America, Lisa Ling continued to exalt Alan as a man who she believes was truly trying to attempt something good out of his efforts to apologize – Efforts which led to inequality, genocide, depression, death, and a mental health crisis among gay people, in addition to a spiritually divisive movement within Christianity. (See her respect for him in minute 4:25 of the link) This is tragic when I know from more than one source that Alan pitched yet another publicity stunt to Lisa, after the Our America piece aired. He continued to attempt to latch on the teat of her innocent assumption that behind it all, he was a good guy trying to do good things…

I don’t believe there are any segments at CNN planned, for her to take him on a trip to Africa where she can cover the story of his apology to the people of Uganda, but like I said… I know from more than one source, this guy has an ego the size of Africa – Or a guilt complex equally as large. Either way, any publicity on his face, or those like him, remains to their benefit because it actually reinforces the belief that ex-gay therapy does work. As long as anyone is still asking if the world is flat, there will be yahoos who believe it. Thus, to truly debunk a myth, perhaps we have to let the ignorant move down their paths of baseless beliefs and hopefully they die off like the plague that they are to the collective awakening to science, spirituality and common good.

But we can’t do that, can we?

I couldn’t.

In January of this year, when asked to participate in a hearing in Virginia, where lawmakers were given the power to prevent abuses to minors, they tabled the decision… but I went, I testified and I thought I was doing the “activist” thing. Here is the link to that drama/trauma and the consequent interview that I participated in for SkyNews.

Do I look like an activist?” I ask myself.

Or do I look like I am being abused by a system of journalism that continues to cater to the aggressor, rather than the survivor?

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could stay involved with the survivor movement several times before in my experience… but after these incidents, I did step back a bit and begin to ask important questions about who “wins” when survivors speak up.

Ratings for the TV networks.

Listeners on the radio shows.

Blog hits for those who discuss us.

Opportunities to spread the lies, for those who actually still believe this stuff.

As I continued to evaluate my role, what I saw from all of this attention was how it perpetuated itself in online survivor communities. Suddenly I was being re-traumatized on a daily basis through my Facebook notifications and emails. Survivors have accused one another of not being “real” activists. Those who continue to teach/preach suppression accused fellow Christians of not being “real” Christians. Allies who are compassionate to the cause of equality are accused of not being “real” advocates. Trust levels were lowered and meanwhile, the actual story of surviving these injustices is lost in debate and stats like the following, ignored:

Q10Chart_Harm_Info

And so, for me… I have had to redefine what activism really is in my world. I can’t judge those who are making a career of chasing after evil and simultaneously trying to convince themselves it is not evil. I cannot discern the motives of anyone but me…

My motive has always been to make sure survivor stories are told… in all areas of our survival. In fact, that is why my career shift, towards early childhood education made so much sense four years ago… because if you truly want to stop victims from being victims, we have to empower our children not to become aggressors and to stand up for themselves when there are so many words and beliefs that can offend the soul.

An ounce of prevention, is all I can offer.

That is my activism now.

I look back at Christianity and how it is arguing with itself and it is sad to watch. I hear stories of progressives who don’t feel “progressive enough” and I see how the image of Jesus is crucified in blog posts and newsfeeds… I hear survivors who don’t feel “active enough” and pastors who can’t find churches that are “involved enough” in actual justice-seeking, mercy-leading communities and lives…

But I have to wonder about this meme that passed across my eyes not too long ago: exodus_year_later_1When I wrote my coming out memoir years ago, I recognize that there is “A Time to Yell…”

But what if there are activists who move within a very different world of advocacy?

What if we are quietly making a difference by creating positive change in the future, by investing in young lives today?

I’m not saying that the adult survivors don’t matter because, of course, I am one! We need community, compassion and environments where we can freely discuss our healing process. And the world needs justice-seekers, but doesn’t it also need peacemakers?

Do we need to continually share our stories in places that are designed to inflate egos or publicity?

Do we need to make ourselves vulnerable in order to increase ratings and if we do, how does that affect our own quality of life?

For me… I cannot engage in what former leaders are doing now, like it’s some VH-1 pop-up video of apologies, stats and E-True Hollywood banter. I’m over it.

Not over what they did and not over how much attention they still get for doing it…

But for me, being an activist now means being whole in my home, my heart, my health, and in my work.

My fiancee dreads this post because she knows that most of the time, when I post about this topic, the attention it brings literally causes me physical pain. But I have assured her, this “year later” post represents the highest intentions of doing what we all wish cult leaders and abusers would do after they have disbanded.

Rest. In. Peace.

Can survivors rest in peace too? Can they look at the places where hurtful words and beliefs left wounds and say, “I learned something and I am going to be okay?” Can they remember their trauma without shuddering? Can they learn to rebuild trust?

Can we… be at peace?

The answer is yes.

But the path to “yes” is different for each of us.

So today, on the anniversary of Exodus International’s shutting down, though it began a shit storm of rebuilding efforts by its leader and continues to be discussed in blog posts from people on both sides of the aisle, creating even deeper division within Christianity and families, I can say…

Happy Anniversary, Survivors.

To all survivors… for every year we make it to the next level, OUR next level, we can celebrate.

Let the media culture do what it needs to do to make a living… but let’s not contribute if it interferes with our own desires to make a life for ourselves.

You have survived much, my friends. I am honored to know your stories and be inspired by the tenacity of them… Thank you, for being… you.

Namaste.

~~

DSC_0821Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.