“Gay Rights” Photo Reflection: An Advocate Reflects on 12 Years

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In an effort to purge some of my memorabilia from relationships past, I sat down with boxes of cards, poems, photos, and keepsakes from the last 12 years and came across a portrait of something more powerful than my difficult past… Something beyond finding love after religious and sexual trauma…

I found a series of news articles from June 2003, highlighting the major headlines that shaped the movement for equality in America. I saved these articles, just one month after graduation from Cincinnati Christian University, where I was closeted for years. All of these articles, I cherished,  a year year before I published Coming Out without Coming Apart.

I placed these news articles in this collage below…

Equality_2003

And I leave this photo with you, to begin your own reflection on what we have accomplished in the last 12 years. We have a long way to go…

But looking back on half a generation of advocacy work represented in this short photo reflection, I can say the following:

I finally believe that I am whole.

I finally believe that my country can learn to respect my dignity as a citizen.

I finally believe that I can choose faith or I can leave it if it does not lift me higher.

I finally believe that my bedroom and my body are mine.

I finally believe that my President is on my side.

I see evidence that Love really does matter.

After all we’ve seen in the last 12 years, maybe we can finally believe that we DO belong…

One can hope.

Consider for yourselves, how far we’ve come and perhaps you can believe in our ability to go even farther!

Namaste, yo.

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose 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, Blue Mountain Arts, 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.

How Gay is my Marriage? #RebrandMarriage Series

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As my wife and I move through through our newlywed months, I’m beginning to wonder if the ideas I had about marriage aren’t particularly “gay” after all. There’s all this drama over what grown couples want to do – for what reason? Why did I ever believe that there was something “wrong” with my sexuality? I know the years of conversion therapy and the rhetoric from church leaders didn’t help. The Bible College folk were not any support either… of course there is small town mindedness and the government’s stand against equality up until the last 8 years…

But why – I mean REALLY, what is it about marriage equality that ever bothered people so much?

Is it particularly gay that I wake up every morning and feel grateful that all the steps that I took, no matter how painful or difficult, still led me to this beautiful woman?

Marriage_3Is it particularly gay that when we argue, I realize that being right is still not as important as making sure I know when to admit when I’m wrong?

Is it particularly gay that I love her family and getting to know them means the world to me, even though we have to deal with being across the globe from each other?

Is it particularly gay that our dinner conversations consist of questions about the dog, our schedules, laundry, a book one of us is reading, or what is going on in our friends’ lives?

Is it particularly gay that when she goes away on travel, our bed feels empty and I miss feeling her arms around me before I fall asleep?

Is it particularly gay that we look back on our time of dating and chuckle at how rigid I was to make sure that everything we wanted was for real before we “wasted time” on too many giddy “I love you’s?”

Is it particularly gay that I get incredibly inspired by her success in the world and celebrating her unique path is one of the easiest things I’ve ever done?

Is it particularly gay that we have dozens of inside jokes that would make other people roll their eyes and consider our intelligence lacking? 😉

Is it particularly gay that my wedding day is something I remember as the best day of my life so far?

Is it particularly gay that we believe that we can buy, make, or share things with each other that will keep our love interesting and magical?

Is it particularly gay that sometimes there’s nothing magical about cleaning, paying bills, making appointments, or discussing our differences?

Is it particularly gay that I’ve never met a woman who knows me so well and can welcome everything that no one else could understand?

Is it particularly gay when we look into each other’s eyes and see the person with whom we want to grow old? Marriage_quote_1

Is it particularly gay that I know this is the woman with whom I want to grieve any of life’s inevitably sad or tragic moments?

Is it particularly gay that I am a better person, a better citizen, a better employer, a better daughter, a better sister, a better friend, a better writer, and maybe even a better dog-owner… because she is in my life?

What do you think?

Perhaps the question isn’t “How Gay is my Marriage?,” but how much stronger would all marriages be if we were all… particularly open to a love like what my wife and I worked to find, labor to protect, and hope to cherish for years to come?

Maybe if this is gay marriage, everyone needs one!

And maybe that is the real threat – redefining marriage as particularly amazing...

Perhaps we are re-branding marriage after all…

#RebrandMarriage Series starts now… 😉 

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose 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, Blue Mountain Arts, 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.

 

 

An Open Apology to My Body

Body_MonroeIn an exercise that came through reflections on trauma and some of my new writing projects, I offer an intimate apology to my body…

~~

My Beloved Body,

There really isn’t much I can say to start this letter without first saying that I’m sorry.

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to understand you and I’m even more sorry that I have let so many extrinsic rules put you in a cage.

My earliest memories of you were nothing but simple – complete. But by age 9, I was already in a “diet” with a mentor figure who was probably then the age I am now. I remember, the middle-school kids, telling me I was fat. Yet, I took karate and walked to school almost every day. I rode my bike for miles and lifted logs, turned over stones, and in the winters, shoveled snow and climbed a hill 500 times to ride my sled. As I got older, I played volleyball with the “big kids” and older neighbors. I was active, I was fit, and I was healthy. I was normal except for a few things that slowed me down – I didn’t like to run, because my lungs couldn’t handle that with the asthma. Sure, I had allergies and one time I broke my ankle playing outside with my sister and the dog…

But I never hated you like I did after I turned 12 – we moved away, and you were subjected to years of torture and confusion from our neighbor.

No doubt, being molested, and later at 15 years old, being sexually assaulted, affected the way I treated you and the way I felt about you…

But gosh, there was also just… junior high and high school – your hair made some think you looked like a boy and your language was not very feminine overall. I tried to dress you up but by even 18, you looked more like a 40-year old woman than a kid just being herself. I did not like you at all. Everything they said to you was just a mirror of how I felt about you. I hated you…

And I can’t apologize enough for pretty much everything we heard at church. While I heard that “the body was a temple” for some greater force, the needs and beautiful depth of being in a body seemed to be completely lost on the church people I knew… they were so concerned about controlling you and harnessing you for some agenda that really conflicted with every beautifully created part of you.

I understand why it was so easy to hate you, not just because of these messages and words but…

It’s because you remember everything.

I used to want you dead because of that – especially if I had a flashback and you were transported back to those July nights, or any nights, when that older boy would strip you of your choice and dignity. You would be left either in a dead stare or sobbing out to a god who didn’t listen…

You also remembered the tension in our home, even from when you were young. You could hold all those feelings inside of you and feel them for years.

Years after the bullying, you still flinched at the thought of what they all said and did. You couldn’t forget!

I hated you because you remembered all of those moments.

But as I’ve gotten older, I still haven’t paused to tell you not only that I’m sorry, but thank you…

imgresThank you for putting up with me as I have learned to tune out what society says is “beautiful.”

Thank you for sticking with me, as I have endured physical, sexual, and emotional traumas that came not only at the hands of others, but sometimes, just with age and use!

Thank you for remembering what I couldn’t process when I was younger, because I can handle it now!

Body, you are kind of a badass, you know?

You literally contain all of my stories. Every scar, every mole, every stretch mark, every now graying hair, every fat roll, every wrinkle… you remember when I was 40 pounds lighter and you remember what I was 40 pounds heavier.

But you don’t judge me.

You haven’t left me.

You’ve just been here, like a loyal friend, waiting for me to understand how dedicated you are to keeping me safe, helping me make connections with what matters, and unconditionally, being mine.

I used to believe that even the flashbacks or the traumatic physical pain I endured the last two years, were part of some kind of deterioration of you, but they are the proof of life. You’ve shown me how I was kidnapped and you’ve even shown me how to pay the ransom to get you back…

It’s wild now, that at 37, I can finally look at you with love.

I’m sure that some will tell me that I can only love you when I’m a size 10 or less.body-image-quote

I’m sure that some will think that I can’t love you at 195 pounds because it was “better” at
170.

I’m sure that some will think that you are wrong because of what you are attracted to and what you like and don’t like in the bedroom.

I’m sure that some will always have something to say about your skin, your hair, your clothes, your food, or your… essence.

But I’ve left this behind, like any other useless construct and I’m proud to say that you are mine.

There has been some kind of factory at work, industrializing the way we view our bodies, and checking them off by standards to which I never agreed. I see this in spirituality and relationships of all kinds. The “factory” mentality really hurt you and I’m sorry I was a part of it for so long. Just last year, when the doctors told me I may never walk properly again if I didn’t let them shove their knives into my back, I thought, “Why all this fear? How does that serve anyone?

Learning to love you through the pain of abuse and specifically, the physical pain of the last year, has taught me that fear only keeps the status quo going – it keeps us believing that you are broken and there are thousands of tools to fix you.

You are not broken.

You are beautiful.

You are sexy.

You are my body…

And I am going to love you for as long as you are mine.

Thank you for teaching me how to breathe, when to pause, why to hope, how to stop, where my boundaries are, when to listen, why to love, how to trust…

Most of all…

Thank you for teaching me to love me. In the end, I honestly believe it’s what made me open to loving my wife… I had to come to terms with you, my Beloved Body.

I’m so glad we’re together and you house all of my stories.

I love you,

Gail’s Mind and Soul… 😉

Leave_The_Factory

~~

Fore more information on understanding child abuse and sexual trauma, please check out the resources at RAINN.

RAY_7279Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose 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, Blue Mountain Arts, 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.

My Better Half, My Better Self: A Letter to my Wife

This piece is for lovers… and those who believe in lifelong love, no matter how long it takes for life to present it to us.

To My Dear Wife,

I’ve never known someone like you – your willingness to walk through the uncertainties of all that is unstable, whether it be economic, emotional, physical, or just plain human, is more than commendable. It’s life. As Neruda says, “In your life I see everything that lives.”

IMG_6007You go toward all living things and every corner of humanity. I see it in your work and friendships but pleasure of all pleasure, I see it in how you approach me…

I recently wrote about my survivor experience and how powerful it is that you became the woman who was detached enough to let me be fully present for my recovery process, but also attached enough in love and trust, to bear witness to it.

I think about moments like those, when what moves between us is a flow of honesty… words, facial expressions, silence, an embrace… it is simply, unguarded honesty.

It doesn’t bite back in selfishness or fear.

It doesn’t look away as if it is overly concerned or intimidated.

It doesn’t find tools to help as if it is so awkward that it needs to fix the discomfort.

It loves.

It’s honest.

IMG_6040I have caught glimpses of this intimacy, but never has it stayed so constant, before you. I held out hope for it – like an oasis for my dehydrated soul.

And so you have come to me… and I have come to you. This is our marriage.

I remember all these years of wanting marriage, watching other marriages grow, fall apart, thrive, or end. I’ve been learning about marriage all my life – what makes a marriage look “good” to me and what makes marriage look impossible. Most importantly, I’ve listened to couples speak of when they knew that the one they love was the one they wanted to grow old with…

I knew that the day I met you.

Of course, I didn’t know how to let my heart run with that feeling at first, and that’s okay too – but I learned from others, how to stay open to this kind of love.

One of those “others” was my friend Katie, who you would never get a chance to meet, because her life and our stories could never intersect. She died during a season when the narratives between us were farther than I ever imagined they could be… but I was there when she married the love of her life… I remember her emails before her wedding day, as she discussed the priority of her partnership and their life together. I was there when she spoke of commitment, faith, and a hope for a life full of laughter and mutual acceptance. At her wedding, I remember even knowing that the one I was there with, didn’t compare to the “you” I still believed was out there. I was prepared to settle to never have what I saw in their marriage because I wrongfully believed it was only for them.

It was the way they looked at each other – such grace and such simplicity…

For over a decade of my adult life, I’ve held out hope that what I learned from their relationship could become a part of my life. I held out hope that I could learn from others, that even death could not separate the heart from a lifelong love…

All these years later, here you are, my wife, supporting and loving me as I become my better self… and we get to learn from each other, how OUR marriage will grow.

IMG_6042 (1)Sometimes I feel like I’m late to the game on this – so many other experiences and I’m now well into my mid-30’s as if I’m an old maid… I have my baggage, but I’m here.

We are here. And this is our marriage…

I used to believe that it was really important to correct people when they described their partner as their “better half.” As a woman who values her independence and autonomy, I would mock that concept, even when I was in partnerships before you – I wasn’t anyone’s “half” because I am WHOLE.

The truth is that a marriage is whole, but comprised of two whole people – and in some ways, you truly are the better half of this marriage. And in perfect form, I’ve heard you say the same about me – that’s what loving couples mean when they call the other, “the better half.” It is a respectful and humble acknowledgement that this marriage would be nothing without you, and I in it, am better because of you.

Today, as you travel the globe in your work, my heart travels the depth of relationships – reflections on loss, hopes, dreams, grief, and… all emotions. As I soar above it, I am a poetic jumble of anticipation about how our family will evolve and how our connection will only deepen… but in the midst of that creative chaos, I am here with a sense of peace and acceptance.

I found the one to call “wife.”

And you found me.

On this relevant day, in real time, with a vulnerable voice, I celebrate our transparent life.

That is our marriage.

Te amo, mi amor – my better half, my better self ~
Gail

~~

In loving memory of Katie Reider – (May 23, 1978 – July 14, 2008)

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose 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, Blue Mountain Arts, 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.

 

 

The Evolution of a Survivor: Emotional Resilience

Darwin_ResilientI’ve been working on a new writing project which dives into survivor experiences, as a means of highlighting what we understand about resilience, grief, and the healing journey after trauma. As I partner with other survivors, advocates, and psychologists, I notice that there is a sense of “strength” in this work. I’m preparing to launch the project as an e-book and it will hopefully highlight our experiences, educate the media, and provide support to those who are finding their way through the healing process. The project has been called “brave” and “powerful” by those who have reviewed the outreach approach and the content… yet…

We need to be transparent about our emotional resilience and its source.

I’m not brave.

I am not even strong.

I just evolved under changing and traumatic circumstances.

When my father emotionally abused my family, I learned to be responsive to change.

Home isn’t safe? I will evolve.

When my neighbor abused my body, I learned to be responsive to change.

My body isn’t safe? I will evolve.

When my church abused my mind, I learned to be responsive to change.

Spirituality isn’t safe? I will evolve.

When my peers abused my spirit, I learned to be responsive to change.

Being me isn’t safe? I will evolve.

To all of us, who have evolved from every unsafe environment and emerged each time as a new species within our own emotional ecosystem, know that I see you.

Others may think we are on the top of the emotional food chain and can handle anything.

And we can… and we will.

But sometimes rather than being viewed as the person who will “always survive,” we koalaknow we want to be viewed as the small and cuddly chipmunk, lower on the food chain, but adorable and cute too. We want to be seen as the butterfly, magnificent in her transformation, but fragile in flight. Sometimes… we are just a koala… looking for a tree branch and a soft place to call home.

Pay close attention to why some people are so “strong.” It may be simply because a tragic evolution required them to learn to stand alone…

I am fortunate because I finally met a woman who could walk this journey with me – recently, when my wife read through the survivor project, she did the unthinkable as a response – she put down the pages, said nothing, and simply hugged me – for those moments, I didn’t have to explain anything.

I didn’t have to describe my writing process.

I didn’t have to rehash anything I wrote.

I didn’t have to outline my plan for publication or my next steps as a writer/survivor advocate.

Before the editing, feedback, questions, or encouragement in the project, there was only the hug.

The best hug ever, honestly.

Because without words, she told me, “I see your resilience is because you weren’t safe…

And with that, I knew…

I am safe now.

My home, my body, my spirituality – me.

It’s safe to be me.

Evolve well, my friends. We are not alone. Namaste.

For more on vulnerability

For survivor resources

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose 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, Blue Mountain Arts, 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.

 

Trust: Reclaiming the Simplicity of the Heart

IMG_5889If you’ve read any of my blogs, posts, or books, you know 3 basic facts about me:

1. I am recovering from years of toxic spiritual and psychological experiences that were based in Christian doctrine.

2. I believe that as we give direct attention to the social and emotional connections we make with one another, we will heal our planet.

3. I’m a happily married and love-struck lesbian. 😉

These 3 facts converged a bit for me recently as I have been looking at what prevents me from being a more trusting person…

Based on “Church-ianity” and doctrines that severely misrepresent anything useful about spirituality, I hear the word “trust” and consider how it was used to evoke a lack of factual inclusion in my spiritual practices and understanding. Misrepresented as “true faith,” I haven’t had a positive association with the word trust for quite some time. More, when it comes to trust, there are way too many Biblical influences that still need to be flushed out of my brain… trust comes from the heart… and the “heart above all things is… deceitful!” That’s the “good book,” quoted there. Ugh.

Based on “social and emotional connections,” I think that trust has led me down some painful paths, not just inside the unstable walls known as “church,” but also in friendships. On one hand, I’m a survivor of sexual abuse so it’s not hard to imagine that learning to trust ANYONE was a long-term process. In spite of those painful experiences though, I am still an idealist who longs for intimate, trusting connections. “Following my heart” often leads to an awareness of how weird I really am – I begin to see how many constructs exist within the human social world that alienate people like me. Some of us believe in a utopia where we live with an open heart. Yet, when we express it, we are either subjected to being misrepresented in the minds of others and our authenticity is questioned or worse, we can be taken advantage of and watch our boundaries challenged.

Based on being a happily married lesbian, trust can be challenging simply because it has taken me a long time (including two previous 4-year partnerships) and a lot of personal work to actually find and then develop a trusting partnership with the “right woman.” I had to BECOME the right woman first and foremost, but I also live with the emotional baggage of all of the compromises I made in my heart in each relationship prior to my marriage. So… trust… yeah…

Trust: There really isn’t a more violent or complicated word in my vocabulary, but reclaiming the simplicity of the heart is my current path to regaining affinity for trust.

“Trust” has almost become more like an archetype with an identity outside of me. Trust and I have competed like rivaling siblings, over dominion of my mind. Trust is my sidekick, who always gets lower billing over Reason. If Trust and I were in a movie, she would be either the supporting actress or a cameo, but rarely a leading woman.

IMG_5890This piece is my effort at sharing center stage with Trust.

How can I turn over the previous scripts and narratives and integrate her into my sense of wholeness?

The answer, like most answers in my awakening, comes to me through grief…

I recently lost a dear friend and soul sister to a tragic car accident… and as my waking world is flooded with memories of her, even my dream life is haunting me with memories of another young friend who died too young – Katie Reider was a friend in a season much the same way my friend Sarah was – both of these young women lived whole-heartedly, with a sincerity and trust that I have only longed to embody, but never fully allowed to come to fruition…

Kate has been gone for almost 7 years and I’ve never found the words to describe her impact on my life and I’m still only scratching the surface here, in the wake of a similar loss of one of those “angels” in my life who embodied vulnerability and fearlessness.

Here’s what I can say today, about trust… and about the simplicity that is found in the heart…

Grief has re-opened my heart in every possible way and I’m not shielding myself from its lessons for even a second.

Today is the day that I look at the basic facts that make me who I am and I add a 4th basic fact about me…

I live from the heart and I do not fear my own vulnerability.

It’s what I have always admired in others and it’s what I’ve always wanted to become so rather than defining myself as someone who has guarded herself against all possibly harmful outcomes, I want to be fully known as a woman who lives unguarded…

My heart isn’t perfect and I live in an imperfect planet, but if grief has taught me anything, it’s that love is always worth the risk…

Today and every day moving forward, the basic facts that make me who I am are now grounded in fully accepting that what I admire so much in others is what I’m committed to becoming – a woman who is fearlessly open-hearted and unapologetically challenges any construct that binds us from letting transparency and trust nourish our lives.

IMG_5886Somewhere in the world, energetically or in soul form, my friends lives will never end because of this post… I can continue to admire their tenacity from afar and/or periodically grieve the injustice of their lives taken too soon or…

I can honor everything they stood for…

By reclaiming the simplicity of the heart and living an unguarded life.

Namaste, my lovelies. If it’s true that transparency wins hearts, let it begin with each of us winning over the broken heart within…

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose 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, Blue Mountain Arts, 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.

The “Gay” Things I See in my Wife: The #RebrandMarriage Series Continues

flag_Court_gavelThis week, if the Supreme Court of the land chooses to move my country into a full scale acceptance of marriage equality, I want it to be clear that what it means to be married to a woman is pretty simple. For those who are apparently so confused by the thought of two women living together, sharing life together, and respecting one another – it’s important that you see what I see. Specifically, let me point out the “gay” things, so you have more clarity.

Here’s a random list of “gay” things I see when I look at my wife…

When I look at my wife, I see a woman whose gay thirst for knowledge is balanced with self-compassion.

When I look at my wife, I see a woman whose understanding of gay hope is balanced with the reality of injustice.

When I look at my wife, I see a woman who has spent her life putting others first but is committed to her own gay well-being.

When I look at my wife, I see a woman who questions everything mindfully, but also knows how to let go and let gay life happen.

When I look at my wife, I see a woman who will let our children become who they need to become as we gay support one another as partners in parenting.

When I look at my wife, I see a woman whose commitment to seeing the gay good in others has never been overshadowed by all the difficult scenarios she has faced.

what we seeSo… to opponents to marriage equality, I ask…

When you look at my wife, do you only see a woman who is married to another woman? Did you ONLY see the word GAY in the above list? (Go back and reread it without the word, duh 😉 ) Do you think her thirst for knowledge, her hope, her well-being, her life, her support, or her ability to see the good in humanity is particularly different because of sexuality? How silly it sounds to think or believe we are so different…

How sad for you, that your heart is so closed and your mind so warped, that you cannot see a woman for who she is, how she loves others, what a gift she is to me, and how my I’m a better person because she is in my life.

If you look at “real” marriage as simply two opposite gender bodies cohabitating, perhaps you need to consider what we “gays” are doing as we #RebrandMarriage.

Let us, the “gays” with the agenda of love, be the ones who #RebrandMarriage. So far, when I look at marriage, I see it as a lifelong journey of looking at the woman I love and seeing her with respect, admiration, and acceptance.

If that’s awkward for you, that defines your views of marriage, not ours.

Namaste, Supreme Court. You will see what you are looking for and if you’re looking for justice for all, you will see love is legal.

— For more information to find out how “gay” your marriage is, follow this link. —

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose 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, Blue Mountain Arts, 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.

 

Florence + the Machine: When Musicality Meets Magic

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All photos by Gail Dickert 2015

In all of my years of blogging, I haven’t felt the need to pause and discuss just how important concerts and music have been in my healing journey… but last week, when I saw Florence + the Machine for the second time at Merriweather Post Pavilion, I was fully captivated by the musicality and magic that exists when she enters the sanctuary of her stage. The scene cannot be represented with my words and even my photos from the concert or the videos that I’ve seen uploaded only paint a sense of her performance…

Truly, you would have to be standing there, in the front rows, as she extends her body, voice, and soul into the immediate aura that is, her audience.

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Photos by Gail Dickert 6.9.15

There are musicians who can perform and there are performers who are musicians, but what Florence and her magical machine offer in those hours of singing, movement, and direct engagement with the crowd is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Specifically during this tour, I saw such light, reverence and passion coming from her back-up singers and brass ensemble. From the entire band, there is a collective force of some of the purest energy I’ve ever encountered… and I work with children! 😉

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Photos by Gail Dickert 6.9.15

There were times I didn’t know whether I should be cheering, laughing, crying, bowing, or lying back as if I were blissfully staring into a sky of stars on a cool summer night.

Her performance, with her surrounding “machine” took me back to a sweet and innocent place where I could flirt with angels, feast on the inhibitions of childhood, and reconnect with both the internal and global peace that comes with being in harmony with others who were open to love and being lifted out of their own baggage.

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Photos by Gail Dickert 6.9.15

I know that every performer carries a humanity that would probably make fans blush or “lose respect” – we are in fact, human, no matter how many perceive us as imperfect in our art. For me though, it is the humanity that I perceive in Florence’s art that causes me to pause in gratitude, like I have found an artistic mentor or temporary guru in my path towards self-awareness and healing.

I am one who has never truly known how to be vulnerable. I can “do” vulnerability and “choose” it, but to embody it to the point where I don’t even know it is my state of interaction is the goal of my whole existence. She appears to me, to already have that down and maybe I am a fan with an inaccurate picture of her “real life,” but that is okay – that is art… it draws us to be clear about what we dream, how we hope, and what we choose as a priority for our lives.

So to close, I want to thank Florence + the Machine as well as her devoted FANS –

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Photos by Gail Dickert 6.9.15

… because it is the collective energy that can be felt at her shows that surely empower her to bring the magic to her musicality. When you’re at one of her shows, there is a cosmic pause that affirms all things vulnerable, all things love, all things broken, and all things… human. There is a deep surrender to the Heartlines that connect us all. I cherish this music and the experience of her profound lyrics and presence.

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Photos by Gail Dickert 2015

Namaste, Florence + the Machine… for the badassery you’ve brought forth for yourself and for all of us – your interconnected web of love and light otherwise known as… your fans.

“Oh the river, oh the river, it’s running free. 
And oh the joy, oh the joy it brings to me.
But I know it’ll have to drown me,
Before I can breathe easy.
And I’ve seen it in the flights of birds,
I’ve seen it in you.
The entrails of the animals,
The blood running through.
But in order to get to the heart,
I think sometimes you’ll have to cut through.
But you can’t…

DSCN1545We will carry…
We will carry you there…”
– Heartlines, Florence + the Machine

~~

RAY_7279Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose 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, Blue Mountain Arts, 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.

Detours in Dating: Do Boundaries and “Breaks” Matter?

love_quoteBuilding a path to marriage is not easy but Yani and I have started discussing writing some parts of our story and how we found each other because it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of authentic accounts about “real life” obstacles and drama that can occur in the season of “dating.” We will get more in depth about this in the coming months, I’m sure… but for now, here’s my attempt to capture boundaries and breaks and how they mattered to us.

So many fairy tale stories paint a picture of lovers whose very breath seemed incomplete until the other came along and whisked them away in a wild series of grand gestures. I, like many, have wondered about how those stories were going to translate into my reality and often set myself up for some grand disappointments because of such expectations. Nonetheless, as a married woman now, I look back on some of those “things we got right” and laugh… allow me to paint a more realistic picture of when you can tell if the one you love now is the one worth waiting for until the fog lifts on forever.

One afternoon before we were engaged, I met up for brunch with Yani and explained to her that I felt that what she wanted out of a relationship and what I wanted were not aligned.

We weren’t “officially dating,” but I needed to let her know that what I was seeing was how we didn’t seem to be focused on the same things and she “probably couldn’t have a relationship with someone like me.” (Yes. It was classic “It’s not you, it’s me.” 😉 ) Though I was deeply in love with her and consistently hiding that feeling (well, hiding it from her anyway), I moved from being emotional connected, to settling into a more “rational” approach to our relationship. Basically, I informed her that I wasn’t saying, “this will never happen,” but I was seeing red flags that made the timing off… and I knew timing was everything in a relationship because I had two long-term relationships and one not-so-beneficial rebound that all proved the importance of timing!

So, in some sense of boundary and restraint, I broke her heart over brunch…

What happened next is what defined the rest of our relationship (and continues to define our marriage!)

We decided to go to Barnes and Noble, stay for several hours among the shelves and stories, and still laughed and flirted like two teenagers in love!

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Perhaps it was retail-therapy that first led us there or maybe neither of us really understood what to make of my perspective on holding back until the timing felt right.

But I do know that at some point in the store, I looked at her and got chills all over my body like I had been immersed in a frozen lake. I had the distinct thought, “When you marry her, this short pause will make sense…

Taking time to align was difficult and maybe even risked her trust or passion, but how respectfully we walked together after that moment, even as it hurt, defined a willingness to go through things together that shaped what is now our marriage!

Setting the boundary of “wait” actually took the pressure off… somehow, it magically allowed us to continue a PG-13 relationship until “we knew” it was right to take any new steps together as a couple.

While I may sometimes look back and wonder if I was right to set a boundary until the timing felt right, I do also wonder if I was just scared… But I’ll never regret it because it was her presence at the bookstore post “boundary” that taught me who she is – a woman who respects me more than any other woman I’ve known and a woman who can trust that what she wants will come to her in due time if it’s meant to be! A gracious, joyful, trusting… friend for life.

I was already in love, but within those aisles of books, I saw I was also, very safe to consider choosing this love.

And so months later, I did.

So here’s what I believe about these detours in dating, when we feel the need to “break” or set a boundary: Our ability to trust in perfect timing and stand up for ourselves even if it means being uncomfortable with bad timing is what shapes mutual respect for this individual we claim we love. If we truly love this gorgeous soul with all its magical and unique views on a life well-shared together, we can handle a pause…

Te amo, mi amor. May we always find ourselves freely written and bound only by a spine of alignment, well-read… and deeply-respected.cute_love_book_quote

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose 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, Blue Mountain Arts, 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.

4 Reasons I’m Worried about Jenner… #JustBeCaitlyn

cJenner4 Reasons I’m Worried… but it’s not what you think!

So, Bruce Jenner is now Caitlyn Jenner – name and gender identity have been changed. It’s official. Get on board. If you think THIS is the biggest of Caitlyn’s problems, let’s get real. Actually being a transgender woman is going to be the easiest considering the following:

1. Jenner is linked to the Kardashian nonsense. Instead of being tied to an Olympic legacy, she is best known as being part of all things Kardashian. Over-coming THAT stigma may be harder than being trans!

2. Jenner is linked to a fatal car crash. Good heavens, this really happened and she is not going to forget her involvement in that tragedy whether she is in a dress or in lounge pants eating bonbons in her million dollar home.

3. Jenner is linked to the Republican party! God Almighty, what could be worse than being trans? Being trans and Republican!

4. Jenner is linked to every muther-effing social media outlet ever created. Wanna see the cover of Vanity Fair on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, CNN, FOX News? She’s such a presence on social media that even MySpace has covered this story. (jk. What’s MySpace?) Point is – she has lost all chance of having a private experience and while she took that risk, it seems like one that may not have been well-calculated.

I worry because she’s associated with reality TV (and nothing more).

I worry because she has some real-death drama on her hands.

I worry because her political affiliation must cause an immense amount of internal conflict.

I worry because in giving up her biggest secret, she may have no chance at living a simple life… into retirement. I mean, she’s 65, people! A little respect for our senior citizens maybe?

Anyway, part of this post is intended to be in a bit tongue-in-cheek, but honestly, it’s the kind of stuff I think about when I read what is happening to emotional and social connections between people who think this subject is a “discussion” up to our “opinion.”

Let’s stop and think about it for a minute –

The average transgender person has a lot more to deal with than Caitlyn, but let’s face it… Caitlyn has a lot more to deal with than the average ANY GENDER person! 

So I say… she looks better in a dress than this lesbian ever would… and I was only uncomfortable being a girl until I realized it was okay to be a lesbian! 😉 Sooooo I don’t know what it’s like to be her. 

But I hope she survives everything that is coming her way – and learns to #JustBeCaitlyn – in whatever ways she can, after having lived a complex 65 years on this Earth!

In the meantime, for more information about how to really show up for this conversation and how trans issues affect us all, check out these links from GLAAD and other organizations…

http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender

http://www.leelahslaw.com/

http://transequality.org/issues

Walk gently in those high heels shoes, Caitlyn.

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose 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, Blue Mountain Arts, 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.

Are We All Josh Duggar?

Shadow_Work_JungNo.

Of course we are not all troubled child molesters whose family used both political influence and the tyranny of silence to cover-up years of damaging child abuse…

Of course we are not all religious fundamentalists who would rather protect the “idea” of family values and pontificate about purity instead of standing up for the girls whose innocence was taken from them…

No.

We are not a sensationalized, sex-starved, patriarchal, mis-educated, and delusional media-created family.

We are not loud-mouthed, anti-gay, pro-oppression bigots whose message of hate has claimed the lives of countless unnamed victims.

But… here is what social media has shown us to be:

We are people capable of judging victims for not forgiving.

We are people capable of terrorizing survivors for “making a big deal” of something that happened “years ago.”

Collectively, as a society, we are people who are uncomfortable with the dark side of our own human condition, which includes, ironically, the side which judges its own dark side!

We are having a traumatic response, collectively, to the trauma of what our culture accepts, how it discusses trauma, and how easily we turn on one another when tensions arise! 

At our lowest vibration, when our minds are weakest, or our hearts are shattered, it’s really important to demonize anything that keeps us feeling in control of our own shadows… It’s the way we make ourselves feel better. This phenomenon is something I observe as an empath and one who studies social and emotional intelligence in children.

It’s also something I understand as someone who dated a survivor of the Quiverfull movement. I can say that nothing in my life brought out my own shadows more than being around someone who had yet to reconcile that oppression from her childhood. I was certainly no help! I can say that now, but at the time, it was much easier to just look at her and consider it all crazy. Her family, her mind, her experiences – it was easier to call it crazy than recognize the crazy it stirred in me!

shadow_jungIn the end, this projection of “evil” in the “other” is a deep and complicated effort to justify one’s own existence and experiences as well as account for the shock in our core that says, “This should not have happened!

If we could just objectively address the weakened mind and broken heart behind it all, there would be no time for these distractions and judgments.

If only we could be brave enough to speak up for survivors instead of vilifying the dark side, we would find that the trauma survivor has endless knowledge to share with us…

Because the survivor doesn’t fear the dark side anymore.

She’s been there.

He’s seen it for himself.

They understand how to overcome darkness not by hating it or judging it, but by knowing it, sitting with it, feeling it fully, and ultimately, accepting it.

We, as survivors, understand… that unless we face the reality of our own shadows, we all become Josh Duggar.

A man whose shadows were dismissed.

A man whose shadows were “forgiven.” 

A man who never had to answer for or own his shadows.

That, my friends, could be any of us…

Are we all Josh Duggar?

No.

But could this collective fear of facing our shadows combined with survivor-shaming and a lack of perspective in owning shadows lead us down that path?

Yes.

Tread lightly and move gently through your truth.

P.S. I dedicate this post to the Quiverfull survivor I dated… because every shadow deserves to be loved.

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose 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, Blue Mountain Arts, 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.