Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I Dare

Look. I write to clear my head. To make sense of what I'm feeling. To understand things. To understand myself. To try to understand others. 

For a good long while the topic du jour around here has been faith. I don't know if it's because I'm getting older and wondering what it's all for or if the many mistakes I make and keep making have me questioning whether I'm nothing but a mistake making machine. (I am. We all are.) It could just be that I'm no longer swallowing things whole cloth and am asking questions because things are not making sense. Not just in the world. But in the very institutions that are supposed to be the voices of reason, of hope.

Maybe I'm just angry. Angry at hypocrisy. Angry at the status quo and the powers that be. Angry that emotion and caring and frustration, if not perfectly executed to the listener/observer's liking, is met more often than not with, "shut up!" "You're talking too loud!" "Get over it!" 

I think more people need to cop to being angry. I agree that yelling is an ineffective mode of communicating; but, so is not listening. If anger is indicative of something else under the surface, then yeah, I absolutely think more people need to cop to being angry. And more people, myself included, need to vow to being better listeners. 

Telling someone to shut up and dictating how communication occurs isn't really helpful. Neither is my all time favorite - "going invisible" or stonewalling - a mechanism people use to withdraw from interactions, shut down and close off. Speaking from experience as a world-renowned stonewaller, issues accumulate when they're avoided.

So, that's one reason I write. To avoid avoidance! To avoid stonewalling and withdrawing. To avoid disengaging from my life and the people close to me. It's also why I went to the meeting I told you about in my last post. 

I heard about the meeting via Facebook:

I was worried about attending, because as I said, I'm angry and anger, for me, often translates into loud. But I made myself a promise: attend and listen with an open mind and an open heart and a very closed mouth. 

It was dark outside when I left for the meeting, but the super moon was bright. I took it as a good sign. I, along with about 25 other people were present. The vast majority of attendees were anglo and over the age of 55. A vast majority were female. A handful were younger than me, and at 48, I'm on the cusp of AARP-dom so can I really call myself "young"? It doesn't matter.

As church meetings are wont to do, we started with a prayer and song. And then the initial speaker passed out the paper you see in the picture at the top of this post and laid the ground rules: we are here to listen, to share; to discuss strategies for communicating as we head into the holidays and contemplate interacting with loved ones who often don't share our same viewpoints, our same lifestyles, our same values. 

She made a point to clarify "this is not about the election, the candidates, or the issues." But then, immediately after she said those words, she asked us to turn the paper over so that we could all read the Archbishop's statement "regarding the election of Donald Trump as President."


I have to tell you, I was not the only person imperceptibly shaking my head at the...what's a good word here...double standard. 

Leading with a double standard is not a great way to begin an open, honest, healthy dialogue, in my opinion. Especially when, to a person, almost every one in attendance was there because of the election (I say that because we were given a sticky note to write out why we came. These anonymous notes were read out as we began the meeting and 98% mentioned the election). 

We broke up into small groups of four to do a few exercises. We each had the opportunity to look at the "I Dare To..." list and talk about the ones that jumped out to us. Within seconds, we were talking about the election and I didn't start it!

Somehow I was in a group with three other women (haha, God has a sense of compassion! Or is it humor?). Two were around my age and we immediately seemed kindred spirits. The other woman was in her sixties and was surprised, but open, about our viewpoints. The four of us had a terrific chat. I felt like I wasn't alone in my pain and anger and confusion. I felt like maybe I made two new friends and we exchanged phone numbers before leaving.   

The meeting was nowhere near long enough to unpack the emotions so many of us were feeling, but, even if it began on an incongruent note, it was a nice start.

It's not enough, though. It's really not. 

I don't know if I have a place in this church anymore. I have faith. I believe that I am here, we are all here, not as a result of some cosmic accident, but for a reason. And, for me, that reason is simply to serve each other and to love each other as we love ourselves. That's the teaching that gets lost in the noise of our egos and our politics and in family members telling each other to shut up and in just the day to day shit of the world. But it's the only thing that matters. 

It's why I can't blindly follow a double standard without speaking what I think is truth to it. It's why I can't just sit back, passively nodding yes, when everything around me is begging question after question.

I made a point as people were leaving to pull aside one of the leaders of the church and of the meeting to ask him about the double standard of telling us - "we're not here to talk politics but please see the archbishop's message about politics." 

He dared to listen and I dared not to be angry. Maybe the conversation will continue. I want to get involved, but I'm very afraid. My faith in the church (and there is a distinction) is hanging by a thread. 

As I left the room, a slideshow was shuffling between quotes from Dorothy Day and Maya Angelou's Still I Rise. And I thought, yes, yes, up from a past that's rooted in pain I rise. These are the words I want to hear from the heart of people of faith speaking up, speaking out, not content to be mollified with a pretty slideshow that helps us feel good for a fleeting moment and then is forgotten in a flash as we shoot the finger to the lady in the parking lot who's just cut us off as we exit and spin our wheels back home. Back to busy. Back to the noise. 

I don't know what to think when my church makes a call for peace and listening but does so with a double standard of "we don't want you to talk about the very thing you want to talk about, but check this out - we want you to hear the church's position on politics so here is the archbishop's statement...please read it and pray about it but don't talk about it here and by the way it's kind of not cool to call us on it because it makes me feel a little uncomfortable I'm just doing what I was told to do." 

Especially when I juxtapose it with a voice like this: http://bit.ly/2fTsyHQ.

You can't be a light in the darkness by leading with a double standard. 

I don't know...all of us try. All of us fail. And platitudes'll get me nowhere. 

So I'll Dare To...

  • risk understanding your beliefs
  • listen even when it hurts
  • think before I respond
  • try and find common ground
  • shut my mouth and open my ears

I won't always succeed. But, please don't give up. I say this to myself. I say it to you.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Can We Still Be Friends?

The day after the election, my church (Catholic, in South Texas where we are predominantly Hispanic) sent out a Facebook notice to schedule the following: 
a time for conversation and strategies for respectful conversations in difficult and stressful times - to provide a safe space to explore attitudes and strategies that might be helpful in maintaining relationships with people we love, with our friends, family and community. 
In another Facebook post, an article was linked in which the young author, a recent Boston College graduate and O'Hare Fellow at America (a provider of editorial content "for thinking Catholics and those who want to know what Catholics are thinking"), despaired of his inability to talk to his parents about the election.   

Now, to my knowledge, my church has never held such an event. It holds Bible studies, rosary making meetings, prayer meetings, and hosts numerous community volunteer projects. But a strategy meeting to explore ways to maintain relationships after a national election? It feels unprecedented. 

A comment in response to the Genovese article jumped out at me and might explain some things:
Elections are not usually this contentious. There is usually a sense that no matter who wins, the country will basically be okay. The sense that all will be okay is missing because of the incredibly low standards of civility set by the president-elect during the campaign, his utter lack of experience, and his history of corruption. That his campaign was characterized by a complete disregard for facts is also not reassuring. I have seen quite a few elections now and this is the first one that has left me afraid for this country. This election is not typical. If it's the first one you have voted in, rest assured that the outcome does not usually leave people feeling so outraged and in despair. - L Weber
The meeting is Monday at 7:00 p.m. and I'm going. 

I'm going because, like L Weber and Nick Genovese, I'm outraged and confused and sad and I have so many questions. The main reason I'm going, though, is to witness. To witness what and how people of faith discuss the world we now live in post-election. 

I mean, really. It's not like people haven't voted before and had elections come out in ways they weren't happy about. The church never felt moved to host such a meeting before, though. Why is it doing so now? 

Sure, there've been loads of viewpoints passed on via social media. Heck, even beloved Spurs Coach Pop had something to say about it. But, no one in San Antonio is rioting. So...what makes this moment in time so different? Why is there a need to host a "safe space" to talk about things since Tuesday?

I think a big reason is that people are genuinely confused about how a man like the donald could have been elected Commander in Chief of the United States of America. 

Over and above that, though, I think people are genuinely confused as to how people of faith could have been the ones that pushed a man like the donald - a man who absolutely doesn't know the difference between 2nd Corinthians and "Two Corinthians" and who publicly asserted he was pro-choice and then changed his stance and who admits to assaulting women - over the top and into the highest office in the land. 

Because that's what happened. Indeed, White evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons carried Trump into the White House. They overlooked all he said and did and said, yes, but....

After learning this, I asked in all sincerity, if the donald is the answer for believers,* what is the message sent to non-believers about what it means to follow Christ? 

My confusion clearly echoed Pop's. After Tuesday, he questioned:
We live in a country that ignored all of those values that we would hold our kids accountable for. They'd be grounded for years if they acted and said the things that have been said in that campaign by Donald Trump. I look at the Evangelicals and I wonder, those values don't mean anything to them?
Since Tuesday, that's all I've been wondering. Look around you. Since Tuesday it's clear, Pop and I** are not the only ones wondering. 

Faith, like politics, is personal. I know I don't have the answers, because my personal faith and my personal politics are having a hard time reconciling this turn of events in our country. 

But these are questions that have to be answered. By people of faith. By religious institutions. If the saying is true - they will know you are Christians by your love, by your love - people right now are really wondering - where is the love? 

* Which I know begs another question: just how bad were the other candidates that the donald was the best worst choice? Clearly, it means Hillary is satan. /s Maybe that's a post for another day but don't hold your breath.

** In my fantasy, Pop and I are bffs. Don't judge me, it's my fantasy.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Courage. Compassion. Creativity.

I listened to an interesting podcast today via Krista Tippett's On Being, in which it is pondered: Is America Possible? Tippett's guest was Vincent Harding who was, among many things, a trained historian, professor, civil rights pioneer, and colleague of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

As a teacher, Harding would begin class by having students listen to the song linked above in video, Ella's Song (Ella Baker), by Sweet Honey in the Rock. In his teachings and in the podcast, he posits that "when it comes to a multiracial, multiethnic, multireligious democractic society, we are still a developing nation." 

I think it's good to have our eyes opened to that fact and I think that's what happened to many of us Tuesday. 

I have been hurt and angry since that day. But really, what do I know about hurt and anger? There is a portion of the population feeling hurt and angry, too, and they did something about it by voting in a candidate they believe will address those hurts and that anger. If, like me, you are dismayed that good people, including friends, neighbors, and family members, could elect a man like Donald Trump, you have to ask yourself, what is it that I am missing? Because in a democracy like ours, their issues are our issues, just as ours are theirs.  

I don't have the answers, but I do know one thing and it's that the government is not and never can be the salve that heals our wounds. And looking to a governmental leader and expecting that is a losing proposition. I'm with pokergrump in thinking it would be great if 
...federal goverment played such a small role in our personal and national lives that when people we didn't like or trust got elected we could just shrug and get on with other more important things, secure in the knowledge that they couldn't do much damage.
For the people I know who voted for Trump, I know that's something they agree with. I guess, now that he's been elected, the question is whether Trump is a leader who can help bring about such a government. Time will tell.

In the meantime, each of us can do something. It's a cliche but it is a cliche that's true. If you want to see a change, you have to do something about it. Haranguing on Facebook, tweeteling on Twitter, picturing on Instagram just ain't gonna cut it. 

Pick one thing and start. Maybe it's your local chapter of the NAACP or the Boys and Girls Club. Maybe it's getting involved in local politics or volunteering at your church. Maybe it's as simple as shutting your mouth, refusing to argue, and simply listening, period, to family members, friends, and even strangers who think, act, and believe differently than you.

Maybe nothing will change. Maybe everything will change! Maybe the only thing that will change is you. But one thing leads to another and ripples can be far-reaching, and, man, aren't we still a young developing nation....

For me, that point was driven home Tuesday. And it's not because I'm a "special snowflake" who didn't get what I wanted. Apparently Clinton (or Johnson) was so horrible a candidate to stomach for a majority of voters that the Donald was an actual, viable, alternative. And I never thought I'd see that in my lifetime. 

So, yeah, we are still a developing nation and we still have ground to cover and "we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes."

So. If you believe in freedom, what are you going to do about it?  


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho 
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans 
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, 
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth. 

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and 
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

-Naomi Shihab Nye

Monday, February 24, 2014

Truth Be Told

On Facebook, what is the proper etiquette for dealing with a post from a friend when he or she says something you disagree with? Is Facebook a proper place to dialogue or is it just a waste of time?  

I have friends/family who've deleted their Facebook accounts. I have friends/family who just like and share recipes (which is cool because I have made some decent meals from same). I have family/friends who post pictures of their lives and who like and comment on same all up and down their timelines. I have friends/family who post music links (awesome). And I have friends/family who post nothing but memes and OMG HAVE YOU SEEN THIS *&;#%$ videos and links. And I have a lot of friends/family who have Facebook but who never post, never like, never link, never comment. Maybe they signed up and never returned. I just don't know.

For better or worse, I've done a little of it all.

But I can't get on FB anymore without seeing something like this:

When you see something like this pop up in your FB timeline, what do you do? Is it better to just ignore? Is it troll behavior to respond? Mature to ignore? Vanity to respond? And does anybody really care anyway?

What kind of Christian posts such a meme?

What kind of person responds?

One of my best friends from high school posted this particular meme. She reached out to me less than a month ago to reconnect after many years via Facebook. But we didn't just connect there, we exchanged numbers and actually spoke to one another, catching up for several hours over phone calls. We were open and honest, laughing over remembered troublemaking and crying over familial losses. She shared her recent faith experiences and belief in Christ and I echoed my own.

I was also upfront about my family, our daughter, myself. In other words - it was an opportunity to "come out" again.  'Opportunity' connotes something positive, fun, lucky, favorable. Sometimes coming out involves those things. Other times, it does not (watching Ellen Page's hand/arm gesture and hearing the stress in her voice during her coming out speech (in front of a hugely supportive audience, no less) may give you a sense of the emotions people can experience when they come out. And when you're not Ellen or Elton John, you usually don't get to just 'come out' one time in your life and be done with it. You get to come out many times, under many different circumstances).

I was honest with her because I didn't want her to be uncomfortable or surprised. I wanted her to be able to choose to 'unfriend' if necessary, no hard feelings.

But she didn't unfriend. And she's liked photos of my family and recipe links I've shared and crappy song links I've forced on the world via my timeline and I've done the same in return.

And so when she wrote #truthbetold and linked to the meme, it automatically posted to my timeline. Because we're friends. I read it and thought on it and before I knew it, my fingers were flying:
Is there a Christian meme #truthbetold repository that I can go to, to get one of these for my page? I want to replace "homosexuality" with any one of the 10 Commandments (actually, no, let's just make 10 new memes, one for each Commandment!) 
That way I can post one that says:

"I am a Christian. I believe the Bible. I do not support lying or "bearing false witness against your neighbor" (by way of example, only...though we know the meme will get more traction if it's weighted to the "sin du jour").
Yes, we are still friends. No, I am not judging you. No, I am not condemning you to hell. No, I will not let anyone bully you (even though that's kind of what I'm doing by posting this meme).

But realize that name-calling and stereotyping those of us who stand for what we believe is exactly what you don't want done to you. [and that kind of gives me pause. Because...well, by making a meme about a sin, regardless of what sin we're 'meme-ing', are we really 'standing up for what we believe in'? If so, how are we really doing that? When did pointing out what we perceive to be the sin of our brother or sister become an opportunity to finger point, and cherry pick (let's be honest), the sin of our neighbor? I mean, isn't the meme really just an opportunity to ask, "hey can I remove that splinter from your eye?"]
We have the right to speak what we believe, same as you have a right to speak what you believe."
Being Christian is to be name-called. Persecuted. Apart. In this world but not of it. Above it. Better than it. Because the One who is in you is greater than...any damn #truthbetoldmeme.
I was angry. My hands were shaking. I hesitated. Re-read what I wrote. Said to myself, don't send this...nobody cares...responding is so lame...it doesn't help anything...you sound like such a gay idiot...no, you sound like a real asshole...also why and how do you think you can talk about faith, God, Christianity? Selected all the text. Hovered over the delete button. And, instead, pressed send.

And she liked that, too.

I don't think I understand Facebook anymore, you guys.

I don't know if I understand Christianity anymore, either.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Just Going to Leave These Right Here...

EDIT (2/24/14) - this WaPo piece says so much better what I try to say below. Definitely check out that LBJ ad for the lulz.

Elections are coming up, so I tried to spend some time today getting educated about my choices. I have to admit, it wouldn't have registered that early voting starts tomorrow (for the March 4 primary election, eek!) except that during my Olympics viewing last night I saw this ad at every commercial break:

Pretty sure I saw it 15 million times.

Then, on the way to school this morning, I saw Elisa Chan's road sign:

Chan is the City Council person for my district here in San Antonio. I was happy to vote for her. What's not to love? She's a strong female, an engineer who owns her own business, someone who ran on fighting government bureaucracy and reforms in education. Then this happened.

Whatever. What caught me about her sign was the word "conservative." It seems that this word is on every Republican candidate's signage materials or somewhere on their website, regardless of the office he's running for.* And get this, in the Texas US Senate race, alone (and I know it's the primary and so the candidates will be whittled down, but still...) THERE ARE EIGHT REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES RUNNING AGAINST EACH OTHER, y'all! And seven are male.

Most importantly, though, THEY ARE CONSERVATIVE.

The conservative who will impeach Obama

The God-fearing conservative
The Perry endorsed conservative 

And for old time's sake since he's retiring this year, here's a Rick Perry favorite:

And here's our lone female Republican US Senate candidate, also conservative:

The nation building conservative
And here are some of the Republicans running for Attorney General:

The proven conservative (also has courage)

The unwavering conservative
The fighting for Texas, getting results conservative

And here are the guys running for Lt. Governor (all the Republican candidates are male and Anglo. There's one female running. She's Hispanic and a Democrat, Leticia Van De Putte). This position is, arguably, the most powerful post in Texas government because its occupant is President of the Texas Senate and controls the budgeting process as leader of the Legislative Budget Board.

The incumbent conservative

The judge bashing conservative
As an aside (because she is a Democrat), here's Van de Putte's platform, it's the only one - of any of the candidates - that prioritizes "empowering women":

Her priorities

And then there's the race for Governor:

The "conservative to the core"
Abbott faces three interesting people in the Republican primary:

The a-typical conservative 

The candidate who didn't get the "conservative" memo
and who supports legalization of marijuana so she doesn't stand a chance in hell
and Larry Kilgore, who legally changed his middle name to "SECEDE" and now goes by Secede Kilgore.

The rest I'm going to post willy nilly because I'm tired:

The conservative with top Republican issues
The obvious conservative
The 3-Cs conservative

The conservative champion

The Obamanite fighting conservative 
The anatomical plumbing conservative.
Hegar the conservative.
Hilderbran the credentialed conservative

Malachi the conservative leader
The conservative with priorities
The TEXAS conservative
The "I'm so conservative Ted Nugent endorses me"
The Conservative with 10 Conservative Values
And another conservative leader, I'm sure there are more...
There are sooooo many more candidates that I just didn't want to couldn't get to. Click the link below for a very comprehensive directory of Texas candidates in this election cycle. Or if you're just jonesing for a conservative ideology fix.

On that note...what more can I say?

* I just did a quick Google search, landed here, and started clicking links. Most are men. Anglo. And conservative. My head hurts now.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Twitter Debate Follow-up

This began here.

Last night, my twitter correspondent responded here. I have cut and pasted that response below for easier reading and I continue the discussion here because it's easier to link to things in a post than it is to reply in the comment section.
I agree that Twitter isn't conducive to thorough conversation. This was a good idea to move it here
I agree that disagreeing with someone doesn't make one a bad person. I am sure you are very sincere in your belief. I have found you to be very charitable, and for that I am thankful.
Concerning your claims about adoption rates, since heterosexual couples are the vast majority of adoptive parents, I doubly rates would ever vary much.
Concerning fertility drugs, gay couple still cannot have biological kids. Only one half of the couple can have one. The same is not true for heterosexual couples, so there's what I was referring to.
Heterosexual people should be allowed to remarry by the star because they are able.to procreate. Therefore, the state would have an interest. The same cannot be said for homosexual relationships.
I would be interested in perusing the studies you claim exist. Please point me in the right direction.
I have made no appeal to faith in our discussion. It since you brought it up, I will respond. Just because someone may not follow their faith perfectly all the time doesn't mean they are wrong to profess the value of following it. Nor does it invalidate the truth of their faith.
I am more than happy to continue our conversation. I will leave it up to you.
Hello, and thank you for your additional response.

I guess the first thing I would ask you is - on what authority do you base your assumptions? For example, your doubt that adoption "rates would ever vary much" or that it is "not true" for heterosexual couples to experience instances where only one half of the couple is biologically related to their children?

I agree with you that the vast majority of adoptive parents are heterosexual because statistically there are simply more heterosexuals in our country. This makes perfect sense. It doesn't, however, provide a basis for precluding homosexuals from adopting.

Your reference to it not being true for heterosexual couples to experience instances where only one half of the couple is biologically related to their children is also invalid. I certainly grant you the technical truth to what you are implying - only sperm from a man can bond with the ovum of a woman to create a child. And, of course, the child that results from that exchange (which usually occurs via the sex act between the man and woman, but not always) is biologically related to both of these individuals. (And I've already agreed with you that both parents raising the child is statistically shown to be optimal for the child).

What we know from statistics and a study from the CDC, however, is that this is not happening among heterosexuals. Instead, nearly half of all heterosexual marriages in the US (and this is limited to heterosexuals because only heterosexuals can marry in the vast majority of our country) end in dissolution. This fact, combined with long-term increases in childbearing outside of marriage, have led to the occurrence of "multiple-partner fertility," which is simply a fancy way of saying "having biological children with more than one partner." This is what heterosexuals are doing in ever-increasing numbers. As a result, in a large number of families in the US, children are being raised by heterosexual parents, one of whom is not biologically related to the child.

Finally, marriage between people of the same sex is currently not allowed in most of the country, as I've said. Yet, there are clearly a whole lot of homosexuals running around (although some, like me, are usually on the couch). Where do you think these gay people come from? My parents, for example, have been married nearly fifty years. They are clearly heterosexual. I am biologically related to both of them and to my two brothers. They are devout Catholics and I was raised that way my entire life. Yet, here I am. GAY. It is not the entirety of who I am, just as my parents' heterosexuality is not the entirety of who they are.

Will married, faithful, heterosexual, biological parents continue having gay children? Yes. Will homosexuals, if allowed to marry, likely also have gay children? I don't know, but I would assume so since statistics tell us that anywhere from five to ten percent of the population identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is the issue of parents and your question about the studies I reference to support the idea that children raised by same-sex couples are no less psychologically healthy and well-adjusted than children of heterosexual parents.

Support for this truth can be found in the reasoning laid out by the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics et al,  in the Amici Curiae brief filed on behalf of Karen Golinski in the Golinski v. US Office Pers. Mgmt case and in the American Sociological Association's Amicus Curiae brief from the US v. Windsor case decided last year by the Supreme Court.

I cite to these briefs because they empirically lay out scientific support for their findings, it's easily linkable, and they contain additional resource material you may wish to look into for further insight. The bottom line is that more than thirty years of research shows us that children of same-sex parents fare just as well as children of heterosexual parents.

Moreover, the links debunk studies touted by sources like the Family Research Council, particularly the Regenerus study from 2012 , notably because Regenerus acknowledges he performed an "apples to oranges" study in that his comparisons involved biological children of heterosexual parents who were still married to each other as compared with adolescents and adults from divorced households who recalled being raised at times by one parent who sometimes identified as homosexual and/or bisexual. In other words, Regenerus did not examine, and provides no conclusions regarding, the wellbeing of children who lived with and were raised by same-sex parents. Since that is the case, I don't see how citation to his study can ever be credible support for the proposition that same-sex parents are bad for kids.

And I guess that leads me to the crux of our exchange, which is your opinion that marriage is for the preservation of society and is the best way to raise children:

If you believe that, then I don't understand why you would think it somehow good to deny the children of same-sex couples the protections and stability they would enjoy if their parents could marry. It's a fact we agree on - children who are raised by married parents benefit from the social and legal status that civil marriage conveys to their parents. Denying that right to some children because their parents happen to be same-sex does nothing to bolster or protect heterosexual marriage (and it also doesn't harm such marriages). Instead, it merely hurts the children of same-sex parents.

As the Supreme Court said in Windsor, the same-sex marriage ban
humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.
For sure, most kids of gay parents aren't consciously thinking about such things. But, as the Court notes, they are impacted emotionally and cognitively. They're also impacted legally and financially. Just off the top of my head, there are tangible instances where the denial of the right to marry harms same-sex households:

  • Tax and property issues
  • The child's intestate rights and issues related to intestate succession
  • Healthcare decisions
  • Child support and parental rights
  • Community property rights
  • Wrongful death actions
  • Evidentiary privilege issues
  • Divorce issues and spousal support

The arguments you laid out via twitter are the same arguments states across the country are making in response to challenges from same-sex couples that the denial of their right to marry is unconstitutional. Just as you did with me on twitter, Attorneys General from all over are arguing that "marriage is good for children" and the state has an interest in "supporting the family" and "promoting procreation between married couples."

In response, courts are routinely saying - if that's true, how can we deny the same support for those same-sex couples with children who wish to wed? In other words, if marriage, as the state argues, is good for children, it's irrational to deny the gay parents of children the right to marry. More importantly, it violates the law.

(If your argument is that because BOTH people in the couple are not the biological parents to the child(ren) they are not entitled to be married, does that mean you think the children of same-sex couples are not on par with the children from heterosexual parents and therefore are undeserving of the same rights, privileges and benefits those children enjoy? If so, what about kids in families where the parents are remarried and one is not the biological parent to all the kids in the household? Or people who never have kids. Or can't have kids. Or don't want to have kids. See the distinction?)

Indeed, since Windsor, five federal courts have sided with marriage equality. Texas is next to decide. I'm not getting my hopes up, but I will keep my fingers crossed.

Finally, you mention that you didn't appeal to faith during our exchange and that I'm the one who brought it up. You're right about that. I was just trying to say that actions speak louder than words. I agree with you that just because we may fail at times in our faith walk, it doesn't negate the value of following the faith.

I hope this is helpful.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Twitter Debate

Photo by Michael K. Lavers
I responded to a tweet this morning from Patrick Madrid, an American Catholic author and radio host.* We had a fine exchange, which you can also see if you want to wade through my timeline. Out of nowhere, however, I got pinged by two other people who wanted to discuss the issue further. 

Twitter is a difficult medium on which to have an in-depth conversation. So, @ShannonGlasford, I just wanted to express myself a little better and thought it more appropriate to do that here. Please feel free to respond in the comments section below if you think there is more to discuss. 

I appreciate that you reached out to discuss this with me although I have to admit I'm not sure why you did, as you don't follow me there and I don't follow you. We disagree on the issue of marriage and equality. That disagreement doesn't make either of us bad people, and I hope those like us will be able to learn to get along. Because gay people are going to be able to marry someday soon and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it. 

You said "children are better off living with their BIOLOGICAL parents." I don't disagree. Surely you know, though, that many parents, gay and straight, have adopted kids whom they love and care for as though they *are* their BIOLOGICAL kids. You seem to make a distinction. Thankfully adoptive parents, gay and straight, do not. And I say "thankfully" because otherwise the state (foster care) and tax dollars would be raising these children. 

In addition, many gay parents have BIOLOGICAL kids via the advances in fertility drugs you mentioned. These are families in which the children have only known their parents (for some it's two moms, for others it's two dads) as their parents from the day they were born. You may disagree with it, but it's happening in your town, your parish, and in towns and parishes all across our country. 

Plus, you cited studies showing kids do better with their biological parents. I don't disagree with such studies and would love it if all couples with children who are currently married, including so many Catholics and other people of faith, could work it out and stopped getting divorced. However, divorce keeps happening and many children are not living with their biological parents through no fault of their own. Their parents are free to remarry, though. 

In addition, you should be aware that there are other scientifically sound studies that show equally similar things about children of gay couples. If you really believe marriage is the best way to preserve society and raise children, it is irrational to deny such parents the rights, benefits, and obligations of marriage. 

Finally, if your argument is based on your faith, you have to recognize the law protects all faiths (and even no faith) equally. The law cannot require anyone to follow the dictates of your faith. Otherwise our country is no different than Iraq and Iran, two countries that strictly follow Sharia law. Our country is not that. 

If you want people to follow your faith, be the genuine, authentic example that compels people to want more of whatever it is you have. If you can't live that example, at least try not to fault someone else their own struggles.

Again, thank you for reaching out. We can always continue this discussion here if you want, but maybe we should agree to disagree and hope we, and others like us, can all get along. 

* The initial tweet you can find on my timeline. Mr. Madrid's tweet linked to the page I hyperlink above. 

Some resources for Gay Catholics can be found at a variety of places around the web:

New Ways Ministry
A ministry of advocacy and justice for LGBT Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities.

Equally Blessed
Faithful Catholics committed to full equality for LGBT people in the church and civil society.

Dignity USA
A ministry that works for respect and justice for people of all sexual orientations, genders, and gender identities - especially LGBT persons - in the Catholic church and the world through education, advocacy, and support.

Fortunate Familes
Catholic parents with LGBT children supporting others like us to affirm, celebrate, and seek equality for our families. Our faith journey calls us to strive for justice for all our children.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Matter of Faith

What is it about gay people homosexuals (because that seems to be the word of choice when we’re referenced by Christians and I think it’s because there is a desire to focus on the ‘sexual’ part of the word – and I don’t mean that snarkily) that causes Christians to spend so much of their time worrying about us? I ask this with great sincerity because I don’t understand the interest and I can’t help but see it every time I open any of my social media apps (mainly Facebook. Twitter has more of us heathens).

I mean, what is it, really, that causes entire organizations (I’m looking at you Catholic Church and Focus on the Family and politicos like the Liz Cheney Campaign) and even entire countries (Uganda) to spend so much energy and time and money on us? Why, out of all the issues in the world to be concerned about, is the focus so strongly on the issue of – duhn duhn duuuuuuuhn - the homosexual?*

When did it happen that we are the reason for everything bad in the world? To go by my Facebook timeline: We are why people don’t have free speech rights. We are completely ruining the entire institution of marriage (but not me because I live in Texas). We are rubbing people’s faces in our homosexuality ALL THE TIME because we dare to respond when people compare us to pedophiles and terrorists and zoophiles. We (not alcohol, not drugs, not your basic selfishness and greed) are more destructive than a nuclear bomb to the welfare of the family. And, maybe most despicably, we are responsible for the downfall of the entire beef industry because we cause people everywhere to EAT-MOR-CHIKIN.

I’m writing this because I saw some things on my timeline today that made me hang my head and weep. Literally.

The first was this: How I Wish the Homosexuality Debate Would Go.

And then there was this: To My Friends Who Identify Themselves as Homosexuals.

I grew up in a small town in West Texas and am Facebook friends (and family) with many people who are proud fans of Rush Limbaugh, so I am generally unfazed by the occasional such post. But this week it’s been out of control and it’s all because of this guy:

I’ve read he’s also a preacher (I don’t watch the show so I really don’t know), but there is video of him in which he is speaking to an audience, holding a Bible (and a horse bridle?), and saying more remarkable things. Interesting tidbit, he went to school with one of my uncles, who’s a fan, as are many of my friends and other family members, at least according to my Facebook timeline.

As a homosexual, the linked items above were difficult for me to read and watch. And it was annoying to continue seeing Phil Robertson’s face and the “I SUPPORT HIM” posts in my timeline. But what made me emotional, what made me actually hang my head and weep were two other items.

This: Dear Christians Defending Phil Robertson.

And, this one in particular: Why I Can’t Say Love the Sinner/Hate the Sin Anymore. As I was reading it to Melissa I unexpectedly choked up and couldn’t continue. And then she started crying, too.

I’ve written before that I am a person of faith and about my lifelong struggle with same. Raised Catholic, I stopped going to Mass for years. Experiences in my life lead me back, however. And while I continually struggle and rage and laugh and cry and argue and question, I seek and pray and, ultimately, I believe and it just is a part of who I am.

In some ways, I feel as though I can relate to what I think many Christians seem to be feeling of late because I am gay. Based on my social media timelines, Christians feel they are being persecuted for being “followers of Christ” and for being vocal about that belief. Maybe we can all relate to their apparent fear/anger because don’t we all (I mean, for the most part… we don’t all have Donald Trump’s ego) worry what others think of us at some point in our lives? It’s embarrassing to be laughed at, to be thought of as illogical, crazy, stupid, or sick.

Maybe there are similarities between the coming out experience and a person's profession of faith. Having 'come out', I know what it feels like to be fearful of being shunned and persecuted for conveying something about myself. And, I did experience some aspect of those things. I wasn’t lynched or martyred or marked with a scarlet letter, but I was compared to some pretty vile things, told I was crazy, made to feel as though I was not a good person, and otherwise estranged for a time from people I love and care for. (And every time someone speaks about gays as Robertson did in his GQ interview I am made to feel many of those things again).

I think Christians are starting to feel these things that, traditionally, they have imposed on others without a lot of thought. Understandably, they don’t like it. And they are speaking up about it. Hopefully we can have some patience with them. It’s like when I came out to my parents. Given time, their hearts and minds were changed.

I think that will happen here. I think it must be very hard for a group that’s been the majority for so long to experience what so many minorities live with every day. That doesn’t mean we excuse it; but, maybe we can use our own experiences to be patient and recognize that with time, most people do come around.

But it’s not going to happen without some personal struggle. And, sadly, we’re probably going to see a lot more Phil Robertson and Sarah Palin in camo and Governor Perry in Carhartt type moments before it’s all said and done. The first two links above are indicative of that.

And, for many Christians, it’s the questions and statements raised in those first two links that are going to dictate just how this whole ‘homosexual debate’ is going to play out in history books.

But I can’t help but wonder…is ‘the homosexual debate’ and how we line up on either side really going to be the defining factor of what it means to be a Christian in 2014 (and beyond)? Really?

To me, Ruthie Dean’s post is very much like the argument I have with my parents and with myself on a pretty regular basis…if Christians are the light of the world, why are things so dark? If people are "supposed to want what we have because of our love" and Christians believe “people outside the church will know Jesus because of our love for one another,” then where is this love and why - especially in the face of so-called preachers like Robertson - is anyone surprised that more people are not clamoring to "want what we have" or to know this Jesus?

These are the things I think of as a person trying to make it in this world. A person who happens to be gay, but who is also many other things, including: a mother, a daughter, a partner, and a person of faith. And it's why, in moments of reflection (yes, usually after I've unloaded on social media or an argument with Melissa or an unsuccessful teachable moment with my daughter), I have to ask myself - what does my life say about who I am and what I believe? And does it really match up with what I’m saying? And if it doesn’t, why doesn't it?

And maybe that's it...instead of such an exaggerated concern about the supposed sin of my neighbor, I'm better served - as are those immediately around me - focusing on the very real problems I bring to the table and what I can do about them.*** 

If nothing else, it's a good place to start. Maybe it's the only place to start.


* Um. Where are all the gym teaching lesbians? 

** Can anybody tell me why we aren’t more up in arms over this guy’s comments about "the blacks" in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana? Are you kidding me? COME ON!!! I. Can’t. Even.

*** I think there's even a verse about that somewhere...

Friday, September 6, 2013


You were my last chance to love. I will now Hate in all things and seek my vengeance upon Humanity for all the wrongs ever done to me!! You just killed the last grain of light within me. Now the darkness has begun! I hate all things because of you! The Antichrist is Here!
                                           - Terrence Howard, right before his divorce 
Dang. When I read this, all I kept thinking/hearing was: this.

And then I remembered the last fight I got into with my better half.

Back in the day,* our fights were epic. I would grab all my clothes, call a friend with a truck, and within 2 hours I'd have everything I owned (a couch, some clothes, a toothbrush, and my pillow) out of our shared apartment. A few hours would go by. I'd commiserate with my friend or cry and listen to music or write fifteen tear stained pages of love lost.

Then she'd call, like nothing had happened, and ask all nonchalant, "what are you doing? Want to go get something to eat?" Which usually led to a weekend of horizontal dancing** and me moving my stuff back in, less than 24 hours after I'd moved it all out.

Today, fights are different. They are just not as much fun when you have a mortgage...more than one couch...several toothbrushes...not to mention witnesses (i.e., kids). I mean, I'm pretty sure you cannot yell "SHUT THE FUCK UP"*** in front of an eight year old without some lasting repercussions.

And texting STFU just doesn't have the same ooomph. Plus, you can delete it from your phone, but what if they don't delete it from theirs? It's there for all eternity. And if you're famous, it ends up on Page Six. Hello, Terence Howard.

But come on...who among us hasn't felt like The Antichrist is Here! when fighting with one's beloved?

There is really no point to this post. I was just amazed and amused at Terence Howard's texts.

I've never been married. All I have is the 19 (or 18 or 17) years I've shared with the person who's made me madder than anyone ever in the history of the world. Who's made me laugh at the exact moment I want to yell "STFU!" at the top of my lungs. Who's made me cry with joy (and anger and frustration, too). Who's made me feel like "Satan Himself" and who's been "Satan Himself" her own damn self a time or two.

There have been good times and bad times. There are whole stretches of time (years even) I'd rather forget. And then I look up and wonder where the time is going and what can I do to make it better.

Life ain't easy. Relationships, less so. What are you gonna do?


* Neither one of us can remember the exact date we met. We can remember the year (it might've been '94, possibly '95, but for sure by '96) and what we were doing (we were both out with friends. She saw me walk across the room. She leaned over to her friend and said "that's the kind of person I could see myself with forever." True story.), but we don't have an anniversary date that we celebrate. Instead, we just randomly pick a date each year and try to make it anniversorial.

** For the record, I don't use terms like "horizontal dancing" in real life. It's just that I think my parents still read this blog sometimes...so.

** Yes, there's no logic to my thinking.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Norman Rockwell's Freedom of Speech
Norman Rockwell's Freedom of Religion

I went to see Oprah’s new movie The Butler this weekend. I liked it fine, though I wasn’t blown away or haunted in the way that I got after seeing something like Schindler’s List, 12 Angry Men, or To Kill a Mockingbird.

What I did get, though, was a reminder and a greater appreciation for what happened during a particular time in our nation’s history and some understanding into how that history shapes, for better or worse, our country, our people, our relationships today.

I’m gay, and I have to admit that at one point during the movie, I leaned over to my partner and said, “watching this, there’s really no way to compare what Blacks went through during the civil rights movement to what we are going through today.”

But I wonder…how much of my relatively peaceful existence today is a consequence of the ground work laid by people like Martin Luther King, Jr., the Freedom Riders, and all those who marched from Selma to Montgomery?

I say every last bit of it.

To my knowledge, I’ve never been overtly discriminated against. Never lost a job because I’m gay*, never been beat up for being queer, never been kicked out of my home by an unwelcoming family (not talking for about six months is not the same), never had to sit at the back of the bus, never had to drink from a separate fountain, never had to attend a different school, never been denied entry at a table, dining or otherwise.

But, you know, I’m not a gay historian and I wasn’t at the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, and I’m obviously not Harvey Milk or Matthew Shepard, or Chelsea Manning, or a man (or woman or child) who suffered from AIDS and lived through that crisis in the 80s. I’m just me, trying to make my way through life with my partner and our daughter. And in my mind, the reason I haven’t experienced overt discrimination for being gay is because of all the groundwork that was laid during the civil rights movement.

We have – I have – been educated a lifetime now about discrimination and equality. We know – I know – that it’s wrong to treat someone differently on the basis of their skin color or gender. We know – I know – that it’s wrong to treat someone differently on the basis of how they choose to worship. These things are protected by laws.

Are these “special” rights? Meaning, if we all now know after a lifetime of learning that discrimination is wrong and we shouldn’t do it, do we really even need such laws on the books anymore? By incorporating them into law, haven’t we made them “special” and aren’t we therefore discriminating against those who aren’t in the protected classes? And what about new rights and new protected classes? Do we really have to add more? I mean, can’t we now after long last all trust each other to do the right thing by each other?

I practice labor and employment law. Mainly advice and counsel to companies dealing with employment issues. This means I get calls and deal with issues related to discrimination. I’d say the majority of the issues I deal with involve racial discrimination and retaliation, but sexual harassment, age, and disability discrimination are also right up there.

Along with so many other things, what this tells me is that despite Title VII and all the laws already on the books, discrimination (which Google defines as ‘the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex) is not going anywhere. Idiots are gonna idiot.

For the most part, thanks to the great civility of most people around me, I never really have to question these things on a personal level. I don’t know why I’m gay. I mean, if you’re straight, ask yourself why you’re straight. Is there really an answer? You just are. So, for me, being gay is more akin to a race issue (something innate) than a religion issue (a personal choice not discernible unless disclosed).

I ponder all this lately because I just saw The Butler and because San Antonio – my city of more than 1.36 million people, the second largest city in Texas, the seventh largest city in America, the city designated by the Advocate as having the “highest percentage of gay and lesbian parents in the U.S.,” – is currently up in arms over whether or not to include sexual orientation into its current Non-Discrimination Ordinance.

Currently, 21 states and 180 other cities, including Houston, Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Waco (I KNOW! I was shocked, too!), and Brownsville, have enacted protections for gay residents in city code and state laws.

Essentially, this ordinance will expand the City’s current non-discrimination policy (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age or disability) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status and it will apply to city employment, city contracts and subcontracts.

It does NOT require the city to start marrying gay people, or any private business to provide domestic partner benefits to their employees, or any private business to produce or promote messages it does not agree with on religious grounds.

Part of the uproar stems from the fact that the city’s District 9 Councilwoman was secretly recorded expressing her not-so-empathetic personal views about homosexuality.

And then the media got involved to stir the pot and weigh debate about whether this ordinance would act as a “Thought Police” measure and criminalize the personal beliefs that individuals hold.

And then preachers (yes, even one who was arrested for dragging a teenage girl behind a van after she failed to keep up during a running exercise!) and archbishops got involved to argue that implementation of protections for LGBT people by the city would require people to have to choose between obeying the teachings of their faith and the law.

And that made me question what he means by that statement. Specifically, Archbishop Gustavo says: 

Beyond institutional challenges to the Church, we are concerned by intrusions on the right of conscience for individuals, especially in the area of public accommodation. It is not the province of civil government to interfere with the rights of conscience in the exercise of a person’s faith. It appears that this policy could force individuals who supply goods and services to the general public to provide them to individuals or organizations involved in activities that are in conflict with the providers’ moral values and right of conscience. People should not have to choose between obeying the teachings of their faith and the law.

What I think he’s getting at is this – what if the owner of a florist is patronized by me and my partner wanting to purchase floral arrangements for our wedding. As a Catholic, the owner believes it is against Church teaching for two people of the same sex to marry. Should the owner, as an exercise of her faith, be able to refuse to serve me and my partner? And if so, will the city’s new ordinance criminalize that exercise of faith?

Now, before I give my opinion, I can’t help thinking about the book of Matthew, particularly chapter 5. Most particularly verses 40-42.

How would providing service to me and my partner interfere with the shop owner’s exercise of faith? He or she might not agree with my right to get married (civil marriage, mind you. No one’s asking the Church to marry anyone), but as a Christian, isn’t she called to do it if I ask?

I realize my questions are simple, maybe even stupid; but, I can’t help myself from thinking that it’s this kind of teaching, this kind of institutional guidance that turns people away from organized religion, the Catholic church in particular.

I mean…I can’t be the only one to see the incongruity in organized religion’s lament over “gay rights” when compared to the actions of the preacher who helped lead the civil rights movement of yesterday (a preacher informed by a gay man, no less), right?

Now…do I think the florist should serve me? Yes.

Do I think the government should mandate that she serve me? No. Just like I don’t think the government should step in and make you like me (or me like you, for that matter).

That said, if the florist has a big contract with the City to provide arrangements at all City functions or her business gets anything funded by tax dollars, then no, she can’t refuse to serve me.

Can there really be any objection to that? I mean, does the Church teach (and do Christians actually believe) that love is self-donation, the generous pouring out of ourselves in order to achieve the greatest good for someone else, or does it not? 

So much to consider. So much I didn't cover, or covered poorly. At any rate...do you guys wish I'd just stick to poker? =)


*Full disclosure, I spent most of my career in the closet and it wasn’t until my partner and I were going to have our daughter that I came out to my co-workers at the last firm at which I worked. Thinking back, I was in my mid-30s and had already been in the working world for nearly 15 years. Dang. That’s a long time to be in the closet. To be honest, I was very scared to disclose that information because even though it’s a global firm, our office was just one of the small satellite offices in Texas. While we didn’t have a domestic partner benefits plan, we did have an inclusive non-discrimination policy. I had five years with them by that time and figured if this was what got me kicked out, then so be it. That didn’t happen. That’s not to say everyone was all-welcoming. My relationships with some Partners did change, but no one (other than my supervising Partner, a self-proclaimed evangelical Christian) overtly said or did anything to impede my job or working environment. The only conversations I ever really had about being gay were with that supervising Partner. As a Christian, he had a hard time with it and we would talk about it. I remember him telling me one day, “you know deep down what you are doing is wrong.” Knowing he felt that way changed things for me and I eventually moved on, but while there he never impeded my job, treated me with hostility (other than the general law firm Partner bullshit), or impacted my work environment because I’m gay. I was pleasantly surprised when he called me this year asking me to join him at his new firm (I said no). And, when news of the Windsor case came down, he texted me to say congratulations. Weird how things work out.
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