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.

 

 

The Media’s Abusive Relationship with Survivors

Status

Courage_LiveThe following commentary represents my personal opinion, not the opinions of the organizations named in this piece.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have to come to my blog with the topic of the TLC “Breaking the Silence” piece which will air tonight. I have to write because I not only am a two-time survivor of crimes against my body and soul during formative years, but because I am an active advocate both for sexual abuse prevention and sex positive education.

I have to say something because I am not deaf to what survivors are saying and I’m not blind to what we are seeing.

The media has an abusive relationship with survivors…

How do I know? Because I am a survivor.

What is depicted by the media is the ignorance of bystanders, such as when reporters genuinely ask questions like, “Why didn’t you tell someone,” or “Why did you wait so long to disclose?” Furthermore, often survivors are recounting the traumatic details in such a voyeuristic manner that I can’t tell if I’m watching an interrogation or an episode of Law and Order SVU.

I’m not saying that the details of our stories don’t matter – they do! In fact, I arranged a training for my pre-school teachers this week, which was one of the modules designed by Darkness to Light, who is partnering with TLC and RAINN in this documentary this evening. The “Stewards of Children” is a well-designed training module where survivor stories are told in detail, along with an important list of steps that educators/families can take in order to prevent this crime against our children and their innocence.

RAINN also, has been advocating for victims of sexual assault since 1994. Many survivors associate their name with a safe place.

But the recent affiliation with TLC has caused many survivors to use words like “boycott” and “disappointment” when it comes to this documentary.

Such anger and readiness to walk away entirely from reputable organizations is a reflection on our fear (reasonably) that what will come out of cable news will just exploit survivors.

I saw it firsthand when I was a part of a cable special on OWN, which highlighted the survivors of conversion therapy and our interaction with one of the most outspoken hypocrites of the movement, Alan Chambers. (My piece with Sky News also exploited my experience.)

Lights, camera, action – our infatuation with these things has created an unsafe environment for survivors who off-camera, are still just trying to figure out how to do the following:

* Disclose to our loved ones.

* Live transparently among our families or coworkers without losing our boundaries.

* Believe in humanity.

* Trust that what happened wasn’t our fault.

* Separate from the negative beliefs about sex, religion, or community, which likely resulted from the abuse.

* Get online and not go numb when yet another article indicates that all anyone really understands is how to re-traumatize us…

So, if the “media” cannot be trusted with our stories, we have two options…

1. We can continue to boycott everything that screws up the WHOLE picture of our recovery and resilience (Not a bad option).

2. AND/OR we can find a way to bring our stories forward and connect with those who are LIVING out their recovery AWAY from cameras, lights, etc in order to fill in the gaps of what is presented in the media.

Look, I’m not sure what to expect of tonight’s “performance.” Surely I will hear things that will remind me of my own experiences. No doubt, I will see brave faces and hear things that embody the truth of my experience.

There will be gaps. It’s only a documentary. It will not be thorough and it will not be perfect. It’s also possible that when the mic is handed to someone whose belief in God surpasses the healing journey and reasonable psychological needs, I will cringe and maybe even feel sick to the stomach.

If someone blames the victim (or themselves) or even, in a sense, blames god, I may not be able to eat until sometime tomorrow…

But I’m making the choice to watch because I feel like RAINN and Darkness to Light wouldn’t produce something that puts their entire reputation at risk…

Am I wrong? Well, we can all turn to the comment section here and find out 😉 I will be live-blogging through the comments and on my Facebook Page throughout the airing.

Spring nature background with grass and blue sky in the back

Spring nature background with grass and blue sky in the back

In the end, what I can celebrate is that we are aware enough to challenge the media and call them to be accountable when it comes to representing our stories.

I support those who boycott, because I understand.

I support those who watch, because I understand that too.

The truth is that our journey of recovery with ourselves, our families and our communities will not be summarized by a show, a law, or any single movement.

We are brave because of what we do every day, off screen.

Remember that today, tonight, tomorrow – your courage matters.

I applaud the courage of survivors who challenge the “media” and ask questions of leaders who form potentially shady alliances. I also applaud the courage of survivors who take the risk of appearing in the media. Having been there, I can tell you that those who let themselves be filmed and recorded carry scars from those experiences that are almost never discussed on camera or off camera. If you boycott, keep the survivors who were involved in your thoughts…

Let’s hope education shines over exploitation. That is a hope worth having, my friends.

Namaste, yo.

~~

RAY_7279Gail 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 with her wife, where she serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

The Kind of Life I Choose

Sometimes you just gotta spell it out for yourself and make sure it’s concise…

magical_LifeNamaste, yo

~~

 

America, You Need to Get Laid

Have you ever read an article online and found yourself in the proverbial face palm position afterwards, for days? That’s how I’ve felt this week after skimming many posts about the uproar surrounding some not-so-shocking facts about a bunch of Christians whose sexual practices leave much to be desired in areas of integrity and decency. 

So of course, my “gay agenda” would require me to pose that obvious question of exactly how I’m the one ruining traditional marriage  when it looks like Christians have that down on their own, without any assistance from me. (Not to dive into the fact that maybe traditional marriage needs a good ruining if it’s only about procreation, gender norms, and some conservative ideal manufactured in the 1950’s.)

But more, I’ve been thinking about sexuality education in general. I read this post of “fact memes” from 2014 and decided it was time I take to the blog with some suggestions for how to address the sexual politics in the United States. The graphic below is from the above-mentioned article. (The states in red don’t feel like education on sexuality is a real thing).

SexEdMaps1_2There are some pretty wonky sexual ideas spreading at a more frightening rate than any STI, honestly. One of the ideas, is that sexuality shouldn’t be taught outside of the home. John Oliver did a great job of reminding us why that is a perfectly disturbing approach.

Other ideas revolve around adults who behave like sex-starved but prudish junior high boys. The confusion is evident. We know the whole world doesn’t see sex as just a procreative event to be shared in whatever ways aren’t messy or inconvenient, between two wholesome white people. Yet, we are still so concerned about what is or is not happening between two adults who aren’t wearing clothes. Talk about violating boundaries, ya know?

Why do we care so much? How are we so closed-minded to sexuality? Why are we even consulting the religious on matters of sexuality? Does that even make sense?
Here is what I believe needs to happen. America, you need to get laid.
 

America, as a whole, needs to stop giving a damn about what most religious people are or are not doing in bed. Believe me, it’s probably mostly a snooze fest of missionary-style positions where women don’t have orgasms and foreplay is considered the devil’s playground. No experimentation, no true pleasure, just a few naked body tasks to accomplish once a month, if they are lucky. Why can I say this with such assurance? Because most religions fail to be a source of affirming beliefs and practices towards sexuality. Duh. It’s like going to the grocery store and asking how to install new tires for your car. Someone might have some random suggestions, but it’s not exactly expected that you will find rubber next to a head of lettuce…

Sexuality education, in most religions, is simple. Don’t do it unless it benefits the religion somehow. 

So America… you’re like that best friend who is going through a break-up but can’t seem to think about anything but her ex. You have broken up with mainstream religion, but you miss her smell, her voice, her controlling text messages, and… her fabulous pot lucks? 😉I’m looking at America like I’m the loving friend who is going to help you move on…

We need to get you laid. Fucked, even. You need to get fucked hard, wet, wild, deeply, lovingly, openly.

America needs a love-making eroticism that keeps it coming back for more.

But, can you do it America? Can you go all the way when you hate and fear sexuality as a country? 

Are you worried that “God” is watching or “Uncle Sam?” Either way, when it comes to sexuality, our tendencies go towards the intrusive and abusive rather than the intimate and the adventurous. 

Look America – I don’t want to talk about sex like it’s dirty and I don’t want to talk about sex like it’s sacred. I want to talk about sexuality like it’s a myriad of pleasure, usefulness, exploration, conflict, and connection. If we can’t talk about sex in real terms, with words that draw us into real relationships, then we may as well just stop pretending to have a conversation until we are mature enough to actually take sexuality seriously.

As for religion, I really can’t add much except…

When you get laid, America, for God’s sake, use protection.

We don’t need to be spreading our disturbing social and emotional diseases while we grope our way through adolescence as a country.

~~ For more information about sexuality education that could actually be useful, check out what liberal religion has to offer the conversation ~~

 P.S. Tell me how much you love this post right after a post about “getting off” of Emotional Viagra? 😉

Releasing Emotional Viagra: A Meditation for Love-Makers

1625590_orig“Be aware of those who live on emotional or energetic Viagra. It is not natural and it is slowly killing our actual enthusiasm and our body’s natural ability to rest and recharge. I’ve said it before and I’ll be saying it again and again until the Worship of Influence is addressed – It is not natural to live only for erections of belief, ejaculations of opinion, and orgasms of individualized pleasure.

“Growth, nurture, patience, acceptance, wholeness, peace, justice, freedom, collective wellbeing, creativity, hope – these are not HARD ON events… they are the love-making we BECOME when we color outside the party lines of industrialized behavior and disconnected communities.

“Become the love-makers… learn how to see.

~ Turtle Whisperer Meditation ~

 

A Brief Meditation on Gentleness

Gentle_Strength“Too often the timid are taken advantage of because we will not compete with the cruel… somehow it is our commitment to strength in gentility that makes us a target. Nothing bothers those trapped by internal conflict more than the peace others have because it cannot be bestowed OR taken away… When their weapons of jealousy, projection, misrepresentation, self-hate, or greed head in your direction, remember that it is a distraction. Nothing more – nothing less.

The gentle are mostly annoying to the harsh… because even if their words bring us to tears, they call us names, they threaten our integrity, or they push us aside like we do not matter, the gentle do not succumb and the gentle will not be made hard in our hearts.

Soften yourselves and be with peace… then, we will proceed toward justice, as it includes a brand of gentle indignation.”

Aho and Namaste.

~ Turtle Whisperer, 8.17.15 ~

~~

DSC_0354Gail 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.

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

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.

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.