The Power of Community: When Collective Rejection Becomes the Norm (Part 3)

In my last piece, I connected how collective rejection can become much more socially and emotionally disturbing than individual rejection and concluded that perhaps, after systematically experiencing rejection from a diverse group of communities, I can no longer personally identify the value community. Specifically, what I cannot conclude is that the return on investment is worth it…

Community: Is it too high risk after systematically experiencing rejection?

That’s a very harsh reality for some to hear, because they assume first, that I am just unwilling to “try again.” Another common question/assumption is that the places where I have in fact “tried again” were just not the right fit.

So I have to sit back now and unravel the larger question of what makes the “right fit” for those who have experienced collective rejection, repeated specifically through communities of faith. If the problem isn’t me, how do I interpret and reconcile the following experiences?

~~

Bible College: The place where I invested my college education, grew to love the free and responsible search for truth, and transformed into the adult I am – engaged in questions of faith, open to all experiences, and comfortable with diverse communities. I didn’t exactly receive an education that encouraged inclusive dialogue, but it is what I took away from my time there. This is still the place that disowns its connection to me. After graduation, several professors refused to even look me in the eye, acknowledge my requests to speak further, or address that the collective response to homosexuality was harmful, let alone short-sighted for the community of faith. I was shut out, uninvited and collectively ignored. It was even brought to my attention in the years that followed that this is the same school that discontinued its womens’ basketball program one year because there were allegations of “lesbian activity” on the team. When a community decides to instill collective “head in the sand” responses to conflict (conflict = an opportunity to be inclusive to new ideas), what is the gain? How do I learn to trust that communities can be inclusive to dialogue, knowing this example proves otherwise?

Presbyterian Church Youth Minister: A place where I was free to be “out” and “Christian” didn’t lead to an inclusive experience… my time there, while equally shaping my adult experiences, as well as enhancing my understanding and compassion for the human condition, left me in the cold when my “supervisors” did not approve of my style of youth ministry – bringing diverse young people together in various home-settings instead of inside the walls of the church… what the hell was I thinking? “Yes, but are they going to come to Sunday School too?” I was asked. “Yes, it’s nice that some of the Jewish kids are coming to the group too, but what is the point?” I knew that if these questions had to be asked, I was once again, in the wrong community. How do I learn to trust that communities can be inclusive, knowing this example proves otherwise?

Gay-Affirming Church Minister: Here, I served in the role of a
“Teaching Pastor” at a church plant that partnered with a gay-affirming United Methodist Church. We engaged in basic Christian Church-type stuff – worship, preaching, tithing/offering, outreach… so when I invited the board to allow for me to do a pulpit swap with our host church and they asked, “Why would you need to go to the straight UMC church? They don’t believe what we believe?” you can imagine this was yet another strike against the value of community. When this board also found itself arguing over whether we should go on a mission trip with the “straight church,” my resignation took form in my head. Goodbye “gay-affirming” church… that wouldn’t include straight people… how do I learn to trust that communities can be inclusive, knowing this example proves otherwise?

Enter… gay-affirming, other faith-affirming Unitarian Universalist Congregation: It would be highly expected that as a Director of Religious Education, I could both give and receive in a community of beloved souls. Here, I would learn early on though, that the pastor’s approach for passively letting the committees lead without challenge would derail any attempts I would make of including a unique style to how the youth were encouraged to grown in their faith experiences. Repeatedly I was instructed to uphold the “status quo” of a particular brand of exclusive practices geared at appeasing misplaced egos. I watched as my wavering faith in community was ripped from my eager hands… I would resign in a year, my heart beaten and bruised by the very place I thought would reconcile for me that fear of communities and group think as inherently dangerous was unfounded. Still, a key experience here was how a congregation could collaborate with external organizations and host the only gay-affirming prom for teenagers for 5 years in a row! I served in a volunteer role, where no one single person made any decisions about how this event went. I learned to appreciate what could be gained from networking with other communities, without staying loyal to only one… still, I was left with the question though of how I could be a part of an inclusive community, knowing this example proved otherwise. It was close… but not inclusive enough.

Rejection_Quotes_3For good measure, enter one more last ditch effort at Christianity – A mediocre version of a “gay-affirming” Baptist congregation where creativity was embraced: I can only say that I landed back in a Christian-based community of faith for two reasons – The first reason is that I was as broken as I had ever been, after a break-up with my partner of 4 years. Joining this community and all that those 18 months there entailed was the epitome of a rebound relationship. The second reason, however, was a reason that I still cherish… this community focused on the power of artistic expression. A spiritually-based group of self-avowed artists seemed safe enough, specifically since I knew that the artistic mind is usually inclusive by nature. It wasn’t long until I saw that unless I also followed the status quo of never questioning the pastoral leadership, I was going to find myself on the outside of these walls, once again. Requesting closure and a mutual understanding only left me more broken… but also certain that with all these examples how trusting communities to be inclusive only led to an example that proves otherwise… I left knowing that I may never bother trusting community again…

~~

So what we have here is a repeated experience where the outsider isn’t “let in” entirely, but continues to be perhaps tolerated, maybe even trusted temporarily, but eventually becomes uninvited to the community, forever and ever, amen. No closure. No exit strategy. No common ground. No mutual respect. No understanding. Only silence… or worse, only rumors.

I’m left with the belief that it is assumed that I’m just another person who left because I didn’t fit in and that the groups involved “tried all they could” to embrace me or learn something from someone different and new.

Did they?

Did they try all they could or was their allegiance to a status quo much more important?

And does “status quo” exist in personal relationships the way it does in communities? Does the question of “How has it always been done?” even matter outside of the four walls of an organization?

Rejection_QuotesOver and over, we hear how businesses thrive from allowing themselves to be in diverse environments, asking hard and new questions, challenging themselves with new ideas and growing from revisiting topics they had previously determined were set in stone.

Still, in every community I have ever attempted to engage in, I eventually find myself walking away (or being chased away) because the door is not open… the walls are too high… and the authorities are white-knuckling their sense of power like it is in fact, all they have in this world.

So what is there to conclude from my experiences of collective rejection?

This Rejection Reflection informs us of three things:

  1. Telling someone to “try again” is not always helpful. It’s not our place and sometimes, it may be more hurtful than helpful.
  2. Organizations can do powerful things if they are part of a consortium of influences and larger community.
  3. The most valuable asset to your communities are the people who leave them. Why? Because they know why others consider it and they were brave enough to take the personal risk. They were willing to break their own hearts rather than give any more sense of allegiance to your cause… that says something powerful about your “cause”, doesn’t it?

I may never get an opportunity to put any perspective to the situations I’ve seen in the above-mentioned communities. I want to explain my own broken attempts, what baggage I was bringing to the table, and own my part of the processes as much as I hope others could do the same… but that also threatens the establishment and I know it… so…

The search for closure for these experiences is just as futile as the search for closure from events that I spoke about in parts 1 and 2.

This is the new crossroads…

Not seeking closure, but seeking openness… a community , in fact, without walls.

Does it exist?

I wager this is why our social media connections have become so valuable. I feel more connected to people I’ve never met and faces I’ve never seen live. Screen-based personalities have spoken into my fears of loneliness and awareness of rejection in ways that only a beloved community truly can…

And their words and compassion have prevented the rejection from taking over…

Their connections free me to take responsibility for any role I played in making it more difficult to “be invited,” but they also assure me that those who put up hoops and obstacles are not the people I want to share community with anyway…

I have my friends, dear people scattered across the globe and also dear friends locally. I have my family… and I have my wife… I have my work and I have my natural world, where I am most connected. I even have my global sense of tribe.

But do I have community? Is there value in it?

Here’s what I have in that regard: I have Facebook.

For better or for worse, I am becoming convinced it is where the uninvited go…

Think about this the next time you “Friend” or “Un-friend” someone. For some, it isn’t “just social media.” It’s social everything. This is both fortunate and unfortunate!

So let’s walk gently and remember that those who value it will cherish you as part of their communities, cyber and wall-less as they are. There is also no authority head or committee who can override us so… onward and upward with your postings of your lunch routine, your rants, your selfies, and your weekend plans. Why not?

If we are community, let’s show ‘em how it’s done – people… being… people.

Stay tuned for the 4th and final part of the Rejection Reflection series, where I will discuss techniques for healing ourselves from the well-established and reasonable fear of… others… and discovering how acceptance can become the new normal

~~

RAY_7279Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose recent book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

Meme Therapy for Progressive Christians

I decided to take a brief break from my “Rejection Reflection” series for the night and make memes that progressive Christians may appreciate. I am not a progressive Christian, but I relate to their pursuit of a more approachable, inclusive, and reasonable spiritual experience. This week specifically, I’ve been particularly triggered and downright annoyed by some “Christian folk” who have been representing the “goals” of their brand of Christianity in ways that appear rather unprofessional and disjointed. (I believe the word I’m looking for is ‘evangelical. ;) ) No need to get into it now… just gotta say some things about my former beliefs – Enjoy my meme therapy as a new art form for processing healing from fundamentalism. Namaste, yo.

biblical_inerrancy born_again

 

Christians_Misrepresented

 

Jesus_hell

Jesus_sex

jews

 

messiah_complex

 

Christianity is still known for… Biblical supremacy, Christian privilege/hegemony, bigotry, eternal damnation, sexual oppression and oppression against women, exclusion of other faiths, and is often led by people who think they are responsible for saving others or commissioned by a Creator to lead YOU? Yeah… you have your work cut out for you, Christians. ;) Good luck. Really.

Oh and this one… just because lol

Lord_Teach_Me

~~

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 and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

The Power of Community: Defining Collective Rejection (Part 2)

Rejection_signIt should not really surprise me that the topic of rejection strikes a chord with so many individuals, but not only does that shock me, there is something else that continues to elevate the discussion: Collective rejection. When a system, organization, or group has the power to place rejection on the forefront of our social experiences, there is something indicative of a question here. First, a question we must ask ourselves is one of authority – why and how can entire groups override the individual experience? In this piece specifically though, I aim to answer the question that plagued me all along, which is what is collective rejection and why is it so much harder to unravel than individual rejection?

In my last piece, I wrote about a vulnerable experience from high school and how it tore me heart from soul, to have a beloved, safe group of people outside of the home, turn on me with unexpected physical pranks and threats on the very last night of my time in that group after 5 years. That piece reflects one of the least of my problems though, when it comes to rejection from communities. In fact, as those kids chased me around the room with shaving cream… and I yelled, fought back and nearly employed my karate training to knock a few people down but, as I made my way to a phone, to call my mother, there was something else that occurred – I imagine a slow-moving scene when I remember this moment because I did not notice it when it happened…

In the chaos and fear, grabbing and scraping by, my necklace flung violently from my neck, landing on the floor, left behind me when I ran out…

A cross necklace.

cross_necklacePerfect experience of persecution really – there were comments for years about how silly my abstinence vow was and how unpopular it made me as a teenager and young Christian. Add insult to injury, I was simultaneously being systematically molested by my male neighbor while I attempted to reconcile my closeted same-sex attractions in this context of social and spiritual oppression, bullying, and self-hate.

When the girl who outed me a year before this incident (which I discussed in my coming out memoir), handed me my broken cross necklace upon my return the the school that night, I know my eyes filled up with tears. There was no holding it all back…

We could say that the rejection I faced was because some kids lost their minds and got recklessly caught up in group think, but the truth is that I was always singled out in any scenario for being “born-again” – dying to my social status every single day, because of it. And I didn’t know better than to play it up because the one place where I found affirmation was in the church… at least, for being willing to suffer for Christ. They ate that up… the more I suffered in school and within my own mind/body, the more welcome I was as an active member of a church community… (Makes me think of this Dar Williams’ song).

It isn’t that I wasn’t well-liked or fun to be around in high school. I have only one friend from high school who actually has my phone number nearly two decades later and that friend can tell you how over-involved I was socially – She likes to joke that our yearbook is splattered with my face. It’s fitting though because Yearbook Staff is the one group I didn’t join. I was in school choir, Feature Editor and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper, in National Honor Society, on the volleyball team, on the Forensics Team, and clearly, an active member of the drama club. So why wasn’t I more popular? Honestly it wasn’t because I wasn’t blond or thin. There was a time I thought it was because I was ugly. Being called by a boy’s name by upperclassmen didn’t help the first two years… But… as it turns out… there’s one group missing in that above list of extra-curricular activities: Bible Club.

How barfy. (Yes that’s the technical term)

It’s “social suicide” really, that I not only participated in Bible Club… I was its fucking president and founder, folks.

Previous generations will totally remember geeking out for Jesus at the “See You at the Pole” rallies or the “Why Knock Rock” assemblies. Let’s add the fact that I wrote two persuasive speeches during high school: One advocating for abstinence and the other for school prayer.

I cringe as I write it, honestly.

It’s not that I wasn’t entertaining or engaging as a person. My peers individually liked me, but collectively, would never be caught dead with me in public. Peers who were my neighbors hung out with me all the time but I confess that I have never once been invited to a party where drinking, sexual activity or other teenage shenanigans apparently occurred. It wasn’t even until I was 22 years old when I was having an Ani Difranco-style mural painting session with my first real-life lesbian that I was in the presence of… marijuana!

The church leaders knew what they were doing when they sucked in the vulnerable bullied kid and saw her leadership capacity… it’s why my guidance counselor later cringed when looking at my next steps after high school: Bible College. She wasn’t one of my favorite adults at the school, but looking back, her judgment of me during that decision time was fitting – why is this bright, young woman sacrificing herself on a cross that already had its savior?

I should have studied history at Penn State and become a teacher. That’s what I wanted to do… But, that is history too, isn’t it?

So, we have ourselves a collective rejection from a student body on our hands – individually, I had a lot of friends, but collectively, there was no place to call “home” outside of the home. No “tribe” or “group” other than the folks at the church who clearly only benefited if I stayed on the path to “ex-gay” paradise…

Looking back now, I take a long pause and ask myself then, why anyone had authority outside of me. Why did any group’s beliefs about my social value determine my path? How does this happen in a culture that thrives on the individual goal’s and aspirations?

The answer is religion.

I’ve written about its toxic nature for years, but what I had not formulated in my mind is why it continues to plague me – it’s because there is a systematic rejection of those who do share in one. If I am a Christian, I do not relate to Muslims. If I am a Buddhist, I do not relate to Jews. If I am a Jew, I do not relate to atheists, but if I’m atheist I do not… sigh. It is the epitome of exclusion. It all thrives on being right and separate from something else.

So – we have this failing belief in our human condition that religion serves a purpose… and I wonder why rejection is still something I deal with on a daily basis…

It’s because I won’t choose one.

Worse yet, because I have been so wounded by religion’s affect on my social connection, I am finding it even more difficult to understand the role of community at all. People suggest finding other, more liberal spiritual communities, but I have done this and will discuss it more in Part 3 - but here’s the defining premise of how we can understand collective rejection vs. individual rejection…

When an individual rejects you, you eventually realize there was something wrong with the “us” – the friendship, the relationship, the place of employment. Eventually someone can talk you into seeing that the connection wasn’t meant to be not because something was wrong with “you” but the match just wasn’t a good fit.

However, when you are systematically rejected by entire sub-cultures or groups,  I propose there is an emotional/psychological consequence on the belief that community matters. 

If the community or rejecting group can continue to thrive without you, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe, “Oh I just don’t fit in at that church” or “Oh I just don’t connect with that group.”

Consider that when a relationship ends with a person, it ends. There is some sense of closure.

Consider that when a position is eliminated at an organization, it ends. It’s not like someone else is thriving in that position. It’s over. It’s not about you, as a person.

But when you are kicked out of an organization, the organization still goes on… they still meet up, they still have their social connections, they still thrive…

The only difference is you are not there.

Every day that the church goes on and every day that specific groups thrive without me, I consider then that what is “wrong” with the connection… is… ME.

I’m left with that pang in my soul… feeling uninvited to any social setting, based on my ever-evolving beliefs, my own apparently inconvenient story, and my sexuality…

As if the universe wanted me to know I still had a chance, a familiar song from my college years was played on Glee just last night. “Uninvited,” like many Alanis Morissette songs, defined my healing process in 1998… and so I will sit on this song until I’m ready to write Part 3 of #rejectionreflection series…

Because it’s going to take me more than a moment to reconcile that the definition of rejection is the belief that one is inherently not worth inviting…

Walk gently, my friends. We’ve got to find a way to do more than merely co-exist in a natural world which will insist on evolving… we have to make space for people to grow.

Until then, as always, find the home within – you know from my writing, this is the one place that simply will not fail you.

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 and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

 

The Power of Community: Surviving Rejection (Part 1)

Rejection_sign(Disclaimer: This piece may be a trigger for those who were collectively bullied by communities. Take a deep breath, take your time… and remember you are loved, no matter how many times communities have told you otherwise…)

We all hope to find a place to call home beyond the walls of our literal places of residence. Most of my healing work and writing focuses on finding that home within, in order to build up identity and esteem, which is often torn down by the individuals we trust over the years. This current piece and process, however, reaches into the complex topic and experience of collective community rejection and its effects on the psyche and soul… and the consequence of an inability to locate that home in the context of others.

When I took a break from Facebook (again, because you know how we all do that sometimes), I thought it was in order to focus on my newlywed status and the important and exciting transitions in my “day” job at my pre-school. There is so much about my life that I wanted to be sure to catch, rather than record and share… experience, rather than post and discuss… I wanted to feel, rather than flaunt.

However, what I have done most over my break from social media is a little surprising. In addition to the celebrations and appreciation for new life… there is grief.

As readers of Enlightened-ish know, grief is one of the most powerful tools for awakening that exists within the human condition.

What I have been grieving is the loss of connection to the “other.” Even in marriage and the joining of two beautiful families, there is something that I have lacked and have yet to fully express as a loss – the loss of community.

I had recreated a sense of community through my Facebook connections and most people feel that how I shared and what I shared indicated a personal transparency that is rare and usually unexpected in the world of social media. What few people realized, including me, is that the reason I revealed so much of my personal life and thoughts in the social media setting is this – I selected online relationships that actually matter to me…

For years I thought they mattered because we shared similar stories or similar wounds – but with time passing and transitions underway in my professional and personal life, I see that I selected them and built up the relationships for one single reason: Community has power.

I know this – because it has been community at large, that has rejected me at every turn of my personal, social, and spiritual development, since I was a teenager.

Unfortunately mapping out a history of community rejection is like asking to relive our worst junior high memories. Nonetheless, part of my personal healing philosophy involves bringing to light those things we place in shameful caverns of the mind until they entomb a loneliness deeper still in the soul.

So, let’s get out the map for a moment and relive the rejection… it will help us remember how the social intelligence of our human condition influences our psychological/emotional make-up, but also how there is a difference between individual rejection and collective rejection. The loneliness is the same, but the capacity to trust again is entirely and possibly permanently altered, if not damaged.

First, let’s keep in mind that rejection only hurts if it is connected to something that is loved.

So let’s talk about what I have loved…

My “first love,” in social community was drama club. Dearly and deeply, I loved drama club as a teenager. Beginning in 7th grade, I fell in love with all things associated with musicals and the magic of sound, script, set, and stage. In those early years of learning where I “fit in,” I found respite in the drama club. Over the years I was in My Fair Lady, Hello Dolly!, Annie, The King and I and finally, Into the Woods. As the “tenure” of my drama club experience unfolded, I became more comfortable in the backstage – lights, props, make-up, stage design, back-up chorus, a presence behind the presence that allowed for the stars to shine. I was more willing to be the dark cloth that allowed the audience to appreciate the diamond than lobby for the center of attention. In my senior year of high school, I was the Stage Manager for one of the most complicated musicals to bring to the stage – Into the Woods. If you know anything about the stage, or have seen the new movie remake of the show, you can imagine how it must be, with all those various scenes and lights, exchanging props, setting fog machines into action, ensuring drops accurately depict the scene at hand. The stage crew was nearly double the size of the cast – that was the perfect opportunity for me, an introvert, to shine – the Stage Manager of Into the Woods. Give me the head set and let’s do this thing!

I learned so much from all of the talented upperclassmen and peers along the way and during my senior year in high school, before carting off to Bible College, I had survived my parents divorce, bullying, being outed before I was actually out, and the general anxiety that comes with being a young Christian in high school. But in drama club – I was just Gail. It was my place to feel free, to create, explore, prepare, lead… be…

The rejection of community that I encountered the closing night of the show in 1996 is an event I cannot fully write out – if you asked my adult classmates now what they remember of what went down that evening before the show, there is probably a myriad of half-truths about a silly lynching prank that got out of hand… but what they may not remember is that when it involved me, I stood in the center of a crowded room as one of my peers chased me, spraying me with various cans of shaving cream, toothpaste, or whatever else was on hand because I was a virgin… that is what words were used towards me. “Get the virgin…”

Was I a “virgin?” They didn’t really know. Who or what even determines that? Did they realize I was frightened? Was it more fun because I looked so betrayed, cornered like a dog? Was it a prank that got severely out of hand or was it boys who had targeted me long before that day and whose first year in drama club was their prime opportunity to find me – in my safe place over the previous five years?

Rejection_Quotes_1I’ll never know. I cannot even talk about the whole event without shaking. What I know is that I understand school shootings and I am not comfortable saying that I know firsthand what provokes them. I can also say that what prevents them involves compassionate mothers who drop everything to drive to wherever their kids are hiding, covered in shame and shaving creme, with a ripped shirt and tears streaming down their faces and without judgement those moms say, “I love you… I’ll support you no matter what you decide to do tonight in response…” There’s no telling what my mom prevented that night – truth be told.

I can also say that I understand what it feels like to have an adult mentor look at you and say, “I hate that I knew you would come back. You could have walked away and probably should have, but you know the show must go on… I hate that you were betrayed, but I love you. The show must go on.” Perhaps not word-for-word, those are the remarks I recall from the Director that night when I did in fact, return to the school. He said he didn’t know what happened… but… knew I didn’t have to come back to face these reckless, hurtful, mob-mentality-minded kids.

With a flower for each of my peers and a card that I had written out the day before, I walked up to every single peer, and like the senior girls did years before me, I upheld the tradition of wishing the cast well – “Break a leg,” I said, through a voice choked by tears.

Now – after the curtain closed, tell me… do you think I ever reconciled with those attackers?

Do you think I ever understood why my community had turned on me, when it was literally my job to make sure they shone brightly and their talents were cherished by all?

Do you think I ever found my voice in this episode?

No.

I didn’t.

All I remember doing was holding on to the lyrics from Into the Woods and I let those words save my life… “You are not alone, believe me… no one is alone.” – I listened, assuming that in college, things would be different.

But rejection took on another form altogether on the next place on the map – like I said – rejection only works if it involves something you love…

And if I thought loving drama club and feeling at home there was a devastating thing to lose, imagine all that would await for me when loving Jesus and feeling at home in the church would also show me the power that community has…

The power… to destroy.

~~

I dedicate Part 1 of this post to all the teenagers who feel alone… and all the adult survivors who still struggle to trust… and to my wife, for helping me find my way through this particularly painful recollection. 

Part 2 will follow in a few days, my friends – I will discuss rejection from surprising sources and its effects, as well as skills for coping and eventually learning to trust again. To my Facebook Community – thanks for always giving me the space I need to be me… I’ll be back soon!

~~

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 and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

A Time to Reflect and a Time to Look Ahead… Welcome 2015

The following is content from my 2014 New Year’s Eve meditation… reflections on the year and the call to look ahead… Namaste, my friends.

~~

2ND_6434I’m all set up for a quiet reflection and mindful celebration of all that I’ve managed to accomplish, clear, and receive in 2014… but instead I find myself looking ahead to 2015 rather than my usual looking back – I’m afraid I’ll feel overcome by something awful if I really look back – it feels like I could get emotional whiplash even.

The year could swallow me whole if I give it a chance to tell me what it thought of me.

Pain, the body.

Boundary, for the soul.

Expansion, of the family.

Safety, in the heart.

I don’t think I can do it it – I don’t think I can go back and ask myself too many questions – the year has been so full, so thoroughly engaging and also so draining!

What can I offer as a reflection other than – YOU MADE IT! You treasured all of it. It would have swallowed you whole but instead, you feasted at its table of discovery, dares, and love affairs with fate and choice. You could have lost it all, but instead, you lost yourself in it all – finding a transformation far greater in value than the safe harbor you thought your soul required.

2014 – you lived it well. And it didn’t make you its bitch at any point.

This is the simplest way to celebrate a life well-felt, well-loved and well-shared. Through inside-out hope in humanity and faith in your own heart, you missed nothing. Every tear came with a word. Every dream had a story. Every song had a stage. Every laugh had a photo. Every scream had a shoulder. Every desire had a voice. Every weakness had a place to call home. Every doubt had a lesson.

To believe that 2015 could only get better feels like a jealous rage in the making – how dare we wage our hope on a better year?

More to learn? More to teach?

More to give? More to receive?

There is nothing I want more than the capacity to cherish these cycles of growth MORE.

Welcome 2015 – You have so much I could ask you to compete with from last year, but then I remember the losses in 2014 – the betrayals, the misunderstandings, and the expectations that toppled down from their high places I selected for them…

So I know better.

It’s all relative.

So to 2015, I say, “Be you! In all your glory!”

And let me continue to be me… and seamlessly, but certainly with many affirming incidents and memories, each day will contain all the newness and clarity that I can sustain – and it will likewise, sustain me.

These are my hopes for you, for us all… namaste, my friends.

~~

RAY_7279Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose latest book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

Now that I’m Gay Married… 4 Things Changed

Well, we all know that gay marriage is significantly different than “traditional” marriage, so from about a month into this arrangement that threatens the family, I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned now that I’m Gay Married.

1. Being gay married changed the way I sleep.

Every night before we go to bed, we have this gay ritual of thanking the gay fairies for their bountiful blessings upon our gay marriage. It’s a little over the top, but whatever. It’s all part of tearing apart the fabric of humanity.

2. Being gay married changed the way I breathe.

I had no idea that between every blissful breath, I would be required by the Gay Bylaws of Ruining Traditional Marriage, to state, “I’m here I’m queer, I’m married, now!” every time we go out in public. Again, it’s a bit excessive and perhaps somewhat annoying, but I guess this is Gay Marriage. I have to adjust. I still feel bad for my local coffee shop barista. I mean, it’s just an iced tall chai, but now it is an Iced Tall I’M GAY MARRIED chai. Yeesh.

3. Being gay married changed the way I think.

Being conscious of all the gay things I have to do as a part of this agenda can be very exhausting. When I started to write thank-you cards for the wedding gifts, I was really distracted by the importance of tossing in political and super gay words into all those cards. Duh Gail, you’re gay married… be sure to mention Stonewall, Pride Parades, and how it feels to pave a rainbow path to eternal damnation when you’re thinking of your wedding day and all those beautiful friends/family members who shared those moments with you.

4. Being gay married changed the way I eat.

All this gay food is really different in gay marriage. At every meal, to keep it balanced, we make sure we have a food from every level of the gay food pyramid. We have something organic, something local, something pink and something purple, etc. I never thought the Gay Marriage Dietary laws would be so complicated but again, I’m Gay Married now… life is different.

And satire – well, satire is long gone. I mean, the honeymoon period couldn’t be more annoying. The way we look into each other’s gay married eyes and say things like, “Our gay married life is so fun and I gay love you so much,” would really frustrate most people. But we can handle it. We are gay brave. Our gay married bliss is really just a burden we are willing to bear…

Seriously now, folks.

This piece is in response to a very unexpected encounter I’ve recently had with the 1996-1999 version of myself and an oppressed personal history in Cincinnati, Ohio. I look back at it and sometimes I hope to divorce myself from it. But, if being gay married has taught me anything so far, it’s that I don’t want to divorce myself from my self-hating, spiritually suffocated past…

I want to move towards it with sarcasm and gentility… today, sarcasm, clearly.

But soon, I will have to integrate the fact that every silly thing I have long renounced about the religiously-based prejudice towards gay people was in fact, a fire that used to fuel my own warped beliefs…

I always hated the phrase, “There but by the grace of God go I,” but looking back on a tainted history of faith experiences, lost community, and broken friendships, combined with a limited worldview and laced with self-hate, I do wonder how I got here…

Anyway, I jest at how “gay marriage” changed me when the truth is, it didn’t change me.

It has done nothing but allow me to BE me.

I’m a month into this marriage “thing” and there’s nothing “gay” about it – it’s a sacred union of two people who are still in a honeymoon phase of long gazes, endless inside jokes, stomach butterflies of joyful overwhelm, and tearful conversations of gratitude.

gay_marriage_groundbreakingI can only say one more thing about it all right now: Share this post not because sarcasm feels good (and it does ;) )  but also because you can remember a time when sarcasm was the only tool you had in admitting your own shortcomings. Sometimes we need to laugh… sometimes grief taps most gently on the doors of our hearts through snarky reflections and eye rolls…

And then comes another layer of forgiveness… brace for it.

It’s coming…

Namaste, yo.

And many thanks to Over the Rhine, for being a mirror of music, art, community, marriage, and faith – unbeknownst to them, my journey from 1996-present has their music as a personal soundtrack… And in true honeymoon bliss, I say that until next blog…

I’m wide awake
And the world can wait
” – OTR, The World Can Wait

~~

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

Why I’m Crushing on Nick Jonas… and Taking a Facebook Break. Yes, it’s Related.

I spend so much of my time being serious.

I have survived too much oppression not to take my life seriously. I am too aware of all that can undermine one’s freedom, psychologically, physically, mentally, spiritually, and energetically – so life is serious. I get it.

But then I heard Nick Jonas’ new song, “Jealous,” and it all started to make sense. Yes… really ;)

“You’re too sexy beautiful and everyone wants a taste… that’s why… I still get jealous.”

The depth of lyric is overwhelming, right?

Okay, I’ll stop. It’s not that deep, but it is fun, dammit! He’s fun! He’s this former Jonas Brother heartthrob who just happens to actually do some interesting things in the world and is also making over his image by showing that he’s a grown man now and isn’t afraid of a gay fan base. It’s kind of cool to see an otherwise goofy religious kid evolve into a more purposed adult, even if it is designed by producers and entertainment gurus.

There’s something about this guilty pleasure that sparked me to follow my heart and take a break from my other guilty pleasure – Facebook. I have a deep sense of community in the advocacy, self-healing, and sharing that goes on with the people I call “friends” in the Facebook world. It’s beyond the dog-sharing, selfie-posting, political rants of most Facebook pages. I’ve written about it before – my audience is not an “audience” at all. It’s an active and loving community of people that engage mindfully and with great compassion.

So why take a break?

Why step back?

Why de-activate access to the deepened path on an otherwise surface-level social media site?

It’s about jealousy, folks.

Jealousy is often looked upon as a sign of weakness or perhaps a sign that someone is insecure, right?

But what about when it’s just our right to look at something so beautiful and say, “I don’t want anyone else to have that?”

What about getting married and waking up every morning and thinking, “I don’t want to miss a moment of being a newlywed…?”

What about working really hard in your career and thinking, “I don’t want anything to stop this progress?”

jealousy_memeIs there a such thing as healthy jealousy?

I think there is – I look at the direction my life is taking, professionally and feel the exact same way. I want to protect it, cherish it, keep it from harm, allow only positive influences, surround it with light and hope.

Perhaps it’s reverence and not jealousy.

Perhaps this is a feeling that happens with boundaries and solid appreciation for the moment that is happening…

jealous_memeBut I think I’m almost jealous of my own path right now – After being told I was full of sin, for so long… it’s almost as if I have come through a reincarnation, fresh and new, open to all things and anticipating amazing transitions and exploring every single cell of my being.

Do I have the “right” to protect it?

Is it healthy or does it show insecurity?

I think it shows I am limited – there are only so many things I can focus on each day.

I don’t want to miss this… this newlywed stage. I don’t want to have to pause every time it feels amazing to make sure I upload it.

I don’t want to have to interrupt the flow of peace to make sure that everyone knows I have peace…

Get it?

Have you ever looked at your life and thought, “Damn, I made it?”

I highly recommend this practice, even though I’m only a few days into it.

I miss my Facebook community… extremely, because for an introvert, those friends are often my social life! Alas, I do have friends in real life too though and I can do this…

More though, I can jam out to Nick Jonas (and Melissa Etheridge’s new CD and David Guetta, proving how gay I really am…), and enjoy my own company again too!

After all the years of being told just how wrong I am, I am taking it all in – jealous even, of how right I am… how right this love is, how right this career is…

And yes, how wrong they all were about me!

Exes, former church leaders, former coworkers, former cultural environment, former path…

Allow yourselves to have that “look at me now, yo,” kind of moment. You don’t need me there on Facebook reminding you how amazing you are… you don’t need my random posts telling you that I survived yet another run-in with an emotionally unstable religious person. You don’t need my commentary on racial tensions, spiritual teachings, political games, or the deterioration of education, healthcare, and leadership principles.

You just need to be a little jealous of yourselves…

Pass it on.

Nick Jonas is right.

It’s your right to be hellish. You can still get jealous. :)

Until next blog… I do miss you all… But I’m not gonna miss my life right now. Something amazing is happening and I want to make sure I FEEL it not just Facebook it.

Hugs, love and light, and badassery, yo.

P.S. To my wife… turn the cheek, music up baby, I don’t have to post it all. Saved some of it for you ;)

~~

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

An Open Letter to Daniel Goleman – Because Ferguson Needs a Leader

Goleman_QuoteMany of my readers know me for commentary on social/emotional intelligence and how it relates to pre-schoolers. You may also know my writing as commentary on grief, spirituality, religious fundamentalism, or political issues, and how it relates to the social/emotional intelligence of adults

What you do not know is that I aim to be a key contributor to the global conversation on social/emotional intelligence in conflict resolution and leadership development. You don’t know this because I am just announcing it. (And I expect to invest another two decades in this topic!) The events in Ferguson are the final straw for me. In response to the events, I’m writing an open letter to one of the most educated and internationally known psychologists and researchers in the field of Emotional Intelligence.

This letter is to Daniel Goleman. His wisdom is needed now more than ever and so I write this not only as a Call and Response to Daniel Goleman and his colleagues, but also as a necessary spotlight on the topic of Social/Emotional Intelligence and how it relates to…

Racism… because not only does Ferguson need a leader… we all do.

Dear Daniel Goleman,

I am the Executive Director of a non-profit pre-school where empathy and social/emotional intelligence is taught through an ongoing connection with the natural world. We focus on models of discipline based in brain science and the awareness that our emotional intelligence determines the direction of our decisions and in our case, our abilities to work together as educators to empower children to, in fact, enjoy the process of learning, within a social society.

Mr. Goleman, today I call attention to your work, and our shared passion, in efforts to draw out what this country and perhaps, this globe, needs – A leader who can speak to the social/emotional dynamic that occurs between a social minority and a social majority, particularly in regards to economics and justice. There are so few personalities in our current media structure whose opinions are based in anything other than politics or projections. Worse yet, the wisdom that is quoted in regards to non-violent action or peaceful processes are the voices of the dead: From Martin Luther King, Jr, to Rosa Parks; Gandhi to JFK; John Lennon to Mandela. These voices are nothing but echoes.

Echoes… that saddens me not only because their messages are buried deep, but because almost no one is coming forward with the same social awareness and emotional fortitude, to speak wholeheartedly, yet cognitively, about the hope for humanity.

Even our current President, who I respect deeply, speaks like a man whose soul is lacking a fire on this topic. Can no one educate, inspire, and speak clearly to the social masses in order to usher in a hope for equality, when it comes to racial injustices?

No one can speak to racism, group think, or the emotional hold that exists surrounding the charge of injustice better than an expert in the field of Social and Emotional Intelligence.

So I am asking for you to make yourself available on this topic – turn your attention briefly, if only for a day, to interviews, workshops, allegiances, networks and social media outreach on the topic of racial injustice and how an awareness of social/emotional intelligence could guide us to a more self-regulated, inspired, purposed, and clear-thinking/clear-feeling society.

Mr. Goleman, I’ve been your student of this topic, but also experience it in practice for years, both professionally and personally. In conjunction with my teachers, families, and children, I witness daily how “mob mentalities” work. I observe how a community can turn inward and forget itself when leadership lacks transparency. I see how one teacher’s sense of being under-appreciated can deteriorate an entire teaching team within minutes. I see how one child’s sense of being treated unfairly, can spiral into aggression over the course of a few hours. I see how one minority student can see a child of another color and for the first time, consider the child “different.” We welcome these social tensions, at this crucial age because with an emotionally sound platform, we can address conflict and move through it peacefully and clearly.

Personally, as a woman who has recovered from oppressive religious environments, I’ve channeled social/emotional intelligence in my own healing and ability to seek justice for the oppressed, as we find hope when communities and their leaders have triggered a sense of betrayal and failure. 

For now, my current audience is “the future,” and I learn so much from healing my own childhood as well as clearing a socially and emotionally intelligent path for tomorrow’s adults… But what is happening in real time, in the national sandbox is a raging child without a safe place to express its anger. 

We need a socially and emotionally intelligent leader. (A resonant leader).

We need a leader who can do more than simply acknowledge both sides of the racial tensions, but empathize and facilitate understanding.

We need a leader who can do more than speak about keeping peace, but embody peace through self-regulation.

We need a leader who can do more than announce the need for change, but be the change through raising the tone of conversations to a place where people feel cared for, not catered to in the media’s spotlight.

I call upon you and your network to change the conversations from political to scientific, from isolation to global understanding, and from our fight/flight response to our ability to soar so we can LEARN how to change behaviors that repeat these tragic patterns of self-destruction.

Now is the time.

Our truest leaders have died.

We owe them this moment.

We owe it to ourselves and to… our children, not to merely be an echo for future generations. We can be the voice in THIS generation.

Right now.

With Much Gratitude and Respect for your Research and your Voice,

Gail Dickert

P.S. I am young… decades from now when your torch begins to fade, many of us, whom you have never met, will march on… 

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

10 Things to Know about Ex-Gay Survivors

freedom_meme

I step back often, from my role as an advocate for survivors, because no matter how much time has passed, I am still a survivor myself, which means I need time to simply “be” and not be enmeshed in the gross social and religious assumptions and obsessions that are tied to my experience.

Survivors of most hate crimes can relate.

Plus, I’m getting married in 23 days! Who has time to reflect on their drama when there is so much joy and celebration ahead?

When I came across the quote, “She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom,” this post began to form. It is because of the freedom that I have – to love, and be loved, that I am able to recognize the old weight of putting myself and my own needs second to an institution, a relationship, a career – a faith. I will delve into my story again soon, after I enjoy some wedding bliss and my wife may also share her perspectives with my story, as we write together… but until then, I offer you…

10 Things to Know about Ex-Gay Survivors

When you hear about conversion therapy or “ex-gay survivors,” please consider this list as a means of relating to our stories and perhaps removing the stigma associated with our former efforts to divorce ourselves from our sexuality.

1. The ex-gay survivor is a person who stepped into a place of sacred trust with people who projected and idolized profane theology and psychology… but lived to tell about it.

2. The ex-gay survivor is a person who may not want to discuss the obstacles that he still faces when it comes to sexuality because the cult-like logic used to shame him still travels sensitive neuropathways in his brain. Be aware what you can trigger for him.

3. The ex-gay survivor is a person who may not be able to form any kind of positive belief system around religion and should not be pressured to do so… ever. If there is a God, that God will understand. You should too.

4. The ex-gay survivor may not be outspoken about her experience. She may feel that the best path to recovery is showing her freedom by quietly living a life out of the limelight.bxg_Losing_Religion

5. The ex-gay survivor may not have been abused by anyone or anything in their homes, but instead, be a victim of the societal and religious rhetoric and homophobia.

6. The ex-gay survivor may not have known that he had choices to walk away from what an outsider may call a “crazy” or “clearly impossible” goal of changing his sexuality. He didn’t know he had choices because even the word “choice” was a weapon.

7. The ex-gay survivor is a person who knows more about her own identity development that the average person because she has been placing it under a microscope since a very young age. Self-awareness and self-deception are sometimes intertwined and require patience from anyone who would seek to unravel it with her.

8. The ex-gay survivor may not hate the leaders involved in conversion therapy. On the contrary, we may have compassion for leaders or people we went to groups with because we learned so much about them… they were our friends. We may have complicated grief about losing them… even though it was toxic.

9. The ex-gay survivor is a person who spends most of her day learning how to be comfortable in her own skin. She is not “introverted” or “extroverted,” easily compartmentalized into words/phrases you can understand. She is a survivor of emotional/religious/psychological and sometimes physical trauma. She needs space to be.

10. The ex-gay survivor was born perfect… and is learning that… every day.

jung_choose_jpgI look forward to sharing the next evolution of my recovery, as the wife of an amazing woman, who has learned more about me in a day than anyone has ever known. In short, like any other survivor, any other HUMAN, what truly heals and changes us is the ability to find intimacy in a world that has often closed us down… and then… choose to become loved!

The ex-gay survivor is not any different than anyone who has been betrayed – genuine, consistent, and no-nonsense affection and companionship is the recipe for healing.

Much love, my dear readers, friends, and survivors… you are loved, just as you are.

Namaste, yo.

~~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose latest 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. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

Silencing the External Critics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I see that you have fallen.

I hear that you feel broken.

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

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

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

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

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

And I did not surrender!

I did not amputate myself, from myself.

And for once… I was right, with me.

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

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

And we are here.

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

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

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

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

Listen to it…

It is your truth.

Namaste, yo.

~~

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

~~

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