Solidarity in Purple: Supporting Gay Teens After Spirit Day

Heather Kennedy, or moria on Flickr, used under Creative Commons LicenseAs millions are wearing purple today, Wednesday, I found myself trying to imagine what this might mean to a closeted man or woman.  Walking down the street are all the people who would support you coming out. 

When I was struggling with coming out–I didn’t know who might be supportive and who wouldn’t.  I grew up in a culture that would designate a day, “If you wear Purple on Fridays, you’re gay.”  So it was a color to avoid–for fear of being outcast.  Today, it is THE color–not to show you are weird or different, or even “in” or “cool”–but to help others come out, and know that it’s safe.by ciccioetneo on Flickr, creative commons license  That you support and love them and are waiting for the day when they feel comfortable, and pushing for the day when there is no more bullying about anything. 

So in the Spirit of Spirit Day, let’s keep the purple flowing–as long as we can, in concerted efforts.  Let’s celebrate the color purple.  (All of these photos were found on Flickr and are part of the Creative Commons distribution license.) 

Purple has a long history of being associated with royalty, kings, priests, and even with Christ.  Lydia, famous for her purple cloths, was one of the first leaders of bible studies in the early Christian era.  Purple is a rare color in nature–but when it happens, you notice. 

kevindooley on Flickr, used under Creative Commons LicenseRight now, the climate for gay people is getting better.  However, there are still large pockets where gay and lesbian people are not affirmed for who they are, and what they bring to their communities, and society in general.  We’ve built up a long tradition of pushing men and women back for their sexual orientation, and it’s entrenched in our churches, our military, our governments, our city councils, and it finds its way into schools where kids–who can’t hide a prejudice–act on it.  We punish the kids, but they learn it from the adults. 

So, go out there and get your purple on.   Show your kids that you stand in solidarity with those who are in the LGBT community, and that you want to assure them that not only smittenkittenorig on Flickr, used under Creative Commons Licensedoes it get better, but we–every day–are making it better for them.  Slipping on a hat or a shirt or some purple shoes is the simplest start. 

Binary Ape, from Flickr, Creative Commons License What are the next steps–the day after Spirit Day, the week after Spirit Day?  The next steps may be harder, but we can do those too. 

Get a group of you to wear purple in your churches.  Ask to speak from the podium announcing something, address everyone, but specifically those gay people who may be present in your congregations–out or not–and tell them that they have someone in your church (or a group of you wearing purple) that they can count on to be supportive no matter what your church’s theology might say.  Your purple shows them that you support them right now.  

Get a group of people to wear purple and show up during a city council meeting and ask to speak in honor of gay teens. 

As a gay man, I would look for any, any sign that someone might be friendly, supportive, and understanding– the weight of our secret–our fear that being different makes us less than–is

Purple Heart by the US Army, on Flickr, used under Creative Commons License

 sometimes a lot, especially when we come from communities where there is active discrimination towards gay people.  This can take many forms:  a theology which doesn’t treat gay and lesbian people as equals in the church, a simple understanding that something “gay” is wrong or weird, or a belief that being a gay man is somehow not masculine enough. 

Our military values each soldier, but currently doesn’t value the gay ones if they say they are gay.  The soldier at the right here is receiving a purple heart–and that’s why I have him in the post.  We value what we give Purple to: kings, deities, soldiers, priests–purple is considered one of the rarest colors, hard to create, and therefore highly prized. 

by aussiegall on Flickr, used with Creative Commons licenseWhen we wear purple today–we say, “We highly prize gay teens.  We value you.  We know you have something worth giving and sharing with us.  We value what you have to say and the point of view you have.  You are loved and appreciated.  We want to see what you’ll become.  Our country is changing.  Our governments are changing.  Our churches are changing.   And it starts today.  It starts with me.”

Harry Potter Diary: Harry, the Suppressed, Closeted Wizard

At 41, I’m reading the Harry Potter series for the first time.  Outside the demographic for the book, I was wondering what I would latch onto as an adult.  What would speak to me?

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, HP1, gives us a kid whose true identity is being suppressed.  His muggle guardians KNOW he is a wizard, but they are hoping that he will just not learn about this heritage, and certainly won’t become a wizard.  They never mention his parents were wizards, never tell what really happened the day his parents died, and they never want to hear if he has any wizard “tendencies”… and they punish him severely whenever those “tendencies” appear—when Harry acts on his wizarding nature.

I always found the scene when the owls try to deliver his welcome letter from Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft to be quite moving.  While on the surface it looks like the Dursleys are merely being subverted in their plan to keep Harry from knowing the truth–it is a moment where Harry learns WHO he is and that he has great potential.  Without this moment, there is no Harry Potter or Harry Potter series.

The urgency with which the owls start tossing their letters into the house; the extremes that the Dursleys go to hide away from the letters finding Harry; this is no small event.  I would say it is the biggest turning point in Harry’s life–because afterwards he will understand who he is, and be given the skills to fulfill his destiny, while before he is humiliated and punished when any sign of his true nature reveals itself, and living as a secondary person, almost a slave, in the Dursley household.  He lives in a closet under the stairs!  (I mean, really, people… a closet???)

It’s hard for me to escape seeing this as a coming out moment for Harry, or see this as a metaphor (at least for me) of a boy society has been trying to make more and more “straight”–who just can’t help certain natural tendencies.  As a gay man, I saw myself in Harry.  Society hides our history from us, brands us as immoral, makes us feel humiliated for being who we are–if we even get to know that information–and somewhere along early puberty, the signs start coming in unusually fast… the letters telling us who we are and what we are capable of start flying in.

I had great parents.  No, they didn’t know what to do either when I started exhibiting behavior outside of what they had expected.  I don’t think they ever tried to hide who I was, though; they were afraid to mention anything, uncertain if this might be a tipping point where I would start to explore what this meant.  But certainly my religion tried to separate me from the immorality of a whole group of people, convincing me that I could never be a “homosexual”– because I was a good boy, a good Christian.

If I’d only had a list of the great gay and lesbian people of history, or that so many of our revered American writers were gay or lesbian.  If only I’d realized how much we contributed to history.  Or known what was happening to me physically and mentally and sexually.  I’m glad that Mason Crest Publishers recently announced a line of books for middle-schoolers about being gay, about coming out, about gay and lesbian role models, history, religion.  Like 15 letters!  I want to own those books.

In my life, though, the letters stopped coming, the owls gave up.  I never realized I was gay until I was 34.

But in Harry Potter, the Dursleys can’t prevent Harry from knowing who he is because a giant comes through the door.   Hagrid—man, would I love my own Hagrid!—breaks down the door of the shack on the island where the Dursleys and Harry have hidden.  And he is angry when he finds out that Harry’s history has been suppressed, that Harry’s true nature has been ridiculed and been denied him.  There is triumph and relief in that moment of comeuppance for the Dursleys.  Not only have they been shamed, but Harry has seen them as they are— as no longer the standard or authority for telling him who he is.  He cannot be shamed.  Hagrid has revealed a higher truth.  Harry is allowed to break free of their mental tyranny–because Hogwarts, a place designed for people just like him, is waiting for him.  They value him.

Now, at Hogwarts, everyone treats Harry as someone they love.  Yes, a few treat him like a superstar, but I’m amazed at how loving and caring all the characters are towards Harry–especially the adults.  They become his new family.  Dumbledore and McGonagall serve as surrogate parents, and Hagrid as a protective big brother.

We see the Dursleys as comedic backdrop, but I think, in some ways, they are as dangerous to Harry as Voldemort is.  While Voldemort wants to take Harry’s life, the Dursleys also want to take Harry’s life–his soul, his self-worth, his personhood.  Whoever would rob you of who you are, or try to shame you for being who you are–that is a dangerous person.  If the Dursleys had been successful in keeping the truth from Harry, it would have robbed him of a joyful, adventurous life.  Those who want to keep their children from realizing who they are–and the joys of being that person, the contributions that other people like ourselves have made to history–are extremely dangerous people.  There is nothing wrong with being gay.  And great people in history have been gay.  It is extremely important for every person to have role models.  We spend an inordinate amount of time in Christianity talking about our role models, and in American History about role models, and in sports about role models.  Gays have been hidden from history for a long time.

Oddly enough, we were handed a great role model when Dumbledore was outed by JK Rowling.  Such a huge moment–that a beloved character could be gay and still be the wisest, most caring, fatherly, most powerful character in an already beloved series.  We were handed a beautiful role model, who doesn’t have to just be “gay”–he’s allowed to do other things with his character.   And it completes my attachment to this scene.  Harry is saved by Hagrid, a man of the woods, an earthy gamekeeper, in service to the Head Wizard himself, who is gay, and finally taken from the suppression that had marked his whole life.  Harry is given a new start as a Wizard, in a place that values him, and this makes me cheer.

I’m not implying at all that Harry is gay, only that this scene–where the truth is revealed, and assumption that Harry is worthless is wrong–resonates with me as a 41 year old man.  And that there is a whole hidden history, a whole place where people value who you are–who’d have thought?

It never would have occurred to me at 10 or 12 even… but there is something powerful in these books even for us 41 year olds.

“The Song of Sasquatch” up at Joyland

“The Song of Sasquatch,”my poem/story of bigfoot romance in the style of Song of Solomon, is up at Joyland: a hub for short fiction.  Joyland is unique as an online fiction magazine. It has editors associated with a certain geographical place and all the stories come from writers associated with that place. Occasionally, editor Kevin Chong says, they like to pull a few writers from outside.  Thanks, Kevin, for pulling me in!  Enjoy!

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The Laramie Project Shows Stunning Ensemble Work

This is my review from What’s Up Yukon.  

5 out of 5 Stars

I gave Justine Davidson, the theatre reviewer for the Whitehorse Star, a long hug at the end of The Laramie Project, the Guild Society/GALA play.

Both of us were near tears.

She said over my shoulder, “Does this mean it’s good when the journalists are crying?”

We weren’t the only ones moved.

But don’t let this make you think the play is a downer. It isn’t.

It’s mostly a fascinating study of 80 people learning to cope with sudden and abrupt change. The tragedy of Matthew Shepard’s murder happens before the play begins — so this is, in effect, the aftermath.

This is a community coming to terms with what they think about it — and finding themselves at the centre of a media tornado. You find yourself rooting for them as they try to make it through. …

(For the rest of the review, click here to go to What’s Up Yukon)

Erasing The Fiction: Telling the Good News about the Prop 8 Trial

Occasionally, I stray from talking about science fiction and fantasy because something is important to say, or some event is happening that means a lot.  

The Prop 8 trial is happening in California right now, under the expert guidance of trial lawyers Olsen and Boies, best known for being on opposite sides during the Gore v. Bush Supreme Court moment in 2000.  Now they are together, and they are laying out the case for overturning Proposition 8, the nefarious way conservative folks ended marriage for the GLBT community in California.  

Thousands and thousands of people are watching this trial on liveblogging.  The Supreme Court has denied cameras and videotaping of the proceedings, with a ruling that happened only hours before the actual trial began last week.  Instead, we have had to follow some fantastic transcription of the trial.  

What we are learning is that we have been fed FICTION for a long long time.  And while it has been successful fiction, it’s not very good, and can’t really hold up to textual analysis, or any kind of scrutiny.  When you shine a light on it, it just because hatred, bigotry and discrimination, and very, very unchristian. 

The joy of reading the transcription—and please think of selling this as a book to people (I’d love a book of this trial for a donation to Courage Campaign Institute)–the joy of reading that transcription is the slow erasure of the lies that we’ve been told all our lives: that we will harm children, that we are living in direct violation to God and the scriptures, that we will hurt straight marriages, that we will bring destruction on America if allowed to marry (that last one has a Pat Robertson spin).  

Denying American citizens the right to marry each other is denying them the protections and promises of the Constitution.  First, we live as Americans and that document is our bible–it is what we rule by, live by, act by.  Second, there are countless, wonderful books—by theologians–that map out how the Bible is being used to discriminate, and that God loves everyone–including gay and lesbian people–and wants them, if they so choose, to find someone and love them as Christ loves people.  Christians who believe that gay people are not acceptable to God are treading a path away from God, away from Christ, and, unfortunately, away from the rest of us.  Just as they were some of the last holdouts on repealing slavery, and on granting the rights of women, so they are the last holdouts on accepting gay and lesbian people.  

It is so bad for the Church because many are walking away from God and Christ when they turn their backs on the church.  This goes against all that Christians stand for–they want no one to walk away from them empty-handed.  And yet….  I know they will be really upset when they figure this out.  It makes me sad.  What a horrible representation of God’s love.  

The trial is exposing those lies.  Though we have been blocked from seeing the trial ourselves, the truth is getting out there.  I am so proud of the people who are liveblogging this.  I am so proud to be a gay man right now, to see the truth unveiled, to see everyone slowly realize that we are not the scourge you made us believe we were.  

I encourage everyone to read the transcripts of each of the daily summaries.  You will be amazed.  And then, for folks who are still struggling with religion or faith and sexuality, this uncommonly simple, but thorough book, Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers.  

To my fellow GLBT, God is not “theirs”—he is Ours.  They do not own Jesus, or the words of Jesus, and they cannot block you from his love.  There are plenty of churches now who accept us, and know that accepting us is perfectly good in the eyes of God.  You can go through those doors and receive love from everyone.  

Thank you, Olsen, Boies, and the rest of you for erasing the fiction that has been fooling us.  May everyone get the truth.

Bishop Robinson’s Prayer to Open the Inaugural Events

Pardon my side trip from Science Fiction and Fantasy. But this is important. It’s unfortunate that HBO blacked out the opening prayer of Bishop Robinson, especially after so much controversy over Rick Warren’s selection to pray on Tuesday. Here’s the video. This was shot by Sarah Pulliam of Christianity Today. Christianity Today, in a really nice gesture, allowed it to be posted on their blog and here on Youtube. Sarah, you may have saved a moment in history, important to a whole community.

HBO also decided not to identify the Gay Men’s Chorus when they sang with Josh Groban. It looks like coincidence, but it hurts a whole community to be nearly erased from this historic moment. What you can’t erase, though, are all the gays and lesbians who are watching, and all their friends who are watching, and requiring something different and something better from this new administration. For your enjoyment, here is the well-written, and surprising, prayer of Bishop Gene Robinson. I love the irony of the Blessings section. Full text appears afterwards.

Full text of the prayer, courtesy of the Advocate. I hope they don’t mind that I’m posting it here–I think it should be spread as far as we can spread it.

Good afternoon,

Before this celebration begins, please join me in pausing for a moment to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

Oh God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears, tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die a day from malnutrition, malaria and AIDS.

Bless this nation with anger – anger at discrimination at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants; women, people of color; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort at the easy simplistic answers we prefer to hear from our politicians instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed any time soon and the understanding that our next president is a human being, not a messiah. Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the ways we care for the most vulnerable. And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office fo the president of the United States. Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for all people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady calm captain. Give him stirring words, we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color blind reminding him of his own words that under his leadership there will be neither red nor blue states but a United States. Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him strength to find family time and privacy and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods. And please God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents and we’re asking far too much of this one, we implore you oh good and great God to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand that he might do the work that we have called him to do. That he might find joy in this impossible calling and that, in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

Amen.

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Many in the GLBT community, knowing that Robinson was only going to pray on this first day–a Sunday morning when most other Christians would be in church–still they were looking forward to this representation by both Robinson and the Gay Men’s Chorus. Noticeably, they are hurt.

Though it didn’t get played on TV, on HBO, and will only be heard in snippets tomorrow morning in a collage playback before the swearing in, I hope this video gets round the world tonight to make up for it. Networks and Cable television have no idea the power of Youtube to completely make them obsolete in regards to news and events. You can’t erase a people from history. Not anymore.