Nameless

I share an article in the Washington Post, posted by a friend on Facebook. I am unable to assign this post a title. The article is so much more than gay rights. Too often religious organizations and societies discuss the “issues of gay rights” as abstract ideas, invoking varied responses based upon value systems, experiences, and so much more. What is too often lost in the discussion is its context, its contingencies, its demands, its offer of love and hope: real life.

I do not discuss the article, in part because it is a story that lives, and moreover, I want it to resonate with each reader without inhibiting influence of naming it.

My love goes out to Pastor Schaefer, his wife, their four children and significant others.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/pastor-frank-schaefer-never-expected-to-speak-for-gay-rights-his-sons-gay-wedding-changed-everything/2014/05/30/2a99bcac-b9de-11e3-a397-6debf9e66e65_story.html

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Nameless

Nan and Peggy’s Story

Peggy and I celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary in September 2006. Peggy was raised Catholic and I was raised Episcopalian. We joined First Methodist in Omaha because they are a congregation who truly welcomes diverse groups of people, including gay people. Peggy never doubted that God loved her, straight or gay. I struggled, finding it hard to believe God loved me at all. I knew I was gay at eleven and a half. Because society and the church were so negative toward gays, I tried hard to be straight. When I finally faced the fact that I am gay, I felt and thought I would have to give up my Self or my God. I didn’t see how I could live without either.

I studied the Bible thoroughly on the matter. I consulted ministers. I concluded that people who condemned me for who I am were misguided, interpreting passages wrongly, too strongly, out of context, or without being willing even to consider modern scientific findings or social structures on the subject. (Social structures? There were no loving, committed gay couples, nor even such a concept, in Biblical society. How could these writers condemn something they’d never heard of?) Intellectually, I was satisfied. Emotionally, I carried years of shame and self-loathing.

At that time, I was an avid practitioner of relaxation and visualization techniques, for stress management and self-healing. I had, in my imagination, a lovely mountain meadow with a lake and brook, surrounded on three sides by mountains & pines, a cottonwood near the lake where Jesus hung out, approaching me when I invited him to. Peggy and 1 had already met. When we first met, I claimed I wanted just to be friends. I may have been still pretending on may have admitted we were “dating”. I can’t remember for sure. 1 do remember I was still scared to death I’d lose Cod’s love if I entered a gay relationship, even a committed, long-term, loving relationship.

One day, during visualization, Jesus and I were walking beside the brook, my right hand in his left. There were wildflowers of all shades in the meadow, across the brook to our left. We came to a grove of very tall, white-barked trees on our right. I had never seen them in the meadow before. There was someone high up in one of the trees, who began climbing down. He? She? walked toward us. It was Peggy. How nice! Jesus took her left hand in his right, we continued to walk beside the clear-running, cold, chattering brook. How lovely! Friends in Christ! As we kept walking, Jesus gently placed Peggy’s hand in mine and my hand in Peggy’s. He stopped and stood on that spot. He watched us with affection and approval as we continued together, hand-in-hand, taking in the beauty of creation and the beauty of loving another human being.

When in “real life”, I told Peggy about this visualization, she told me about the trees (sycamore?) in MillerPark across from her childhood home. She used to play in the park and frequently climbed those trees. I can’t remember whether at that point Peggy had already driven me by her childhood home, where her mom still lived, or not, or even if I might have met her mom and dad. Whether we had driven by or not, gone in or not, I had not consciously noticed those beautiful trees. And I certainly didn’t know Peggy had been a tree climber as a kid. I took this visualization as an indication that Jesus approved of Peggy and me as a couple. I took the fact that 1 had “seen” trees I hadn’t consciously noticed and Peggy’s tree climbing, which I didn’t know anything about, as, well, a “sign” from God.

The minister who led Peggy’s and my ritual to celebrate our love and our twenty-fifth anniversary, called this story a direct revelation of the truth from God.

Nan Knicely

Peggy Ryan

 

Next blog post: Nameless                            https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/656

Nan and Peggy’s Story

Kathy England: A Mother’s Story

“What do you think about homosexuality?” Nearly 20 years ago our then 18 year old son, Scott, posed this question during his college Christmas break. Having no real reason to think about it, I thought, I told him I did not understand the “choice” or “lifestyle”. Why would anyone want to be gay knowing how society might treat him — bashing, zero protection for housing or job selection, denial of many basic rights like serving one’s country in the military, lack of acceptance in most churches, or denial of freedom to marry and all the benefits that automatically come with that (i.e. joint insurance, filing joint tax returns, shared home or property ownership, next of kin healthcare decisions, to name but just a few of these benefits).

“When did you first choose to love men, and Dad in particular?” It was not a choice, I had just always been attracted to men, and it was part of who I was. “Same for me Mom, I just remember always feeling this way. It is not a choice.”

Dad’s response was clear and simple. “You are my son; I love you and support you just as you are.” While I echoed this, I needed to know and understand more. So I began to search for something to help me. I finally found a book, Beyond Acceptance, by a group of PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) parents that began to help me understand we were not the only family struggling with so many questions. We found a local PFLAG chapter and began to feel the unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves as parents and for our son. The hardest part of Scott’s coming out was his clear statement about the church that he had grown up in. “The church does not want me as I am and I do not need the church.” Many times over the years as our church and so many others made hurtful, even hateful statements about gays, I tried to remind Scott that the church is people and that God did not reject him, He continued to love and care for him. God made him as he was and must surely continue to love His child, even as Dad and I did. This has been a long hard struggle for Scott, but today he has found a church that loves and accepts him as he is. He is active on the church council, the outreach committee and has taught Sunday school for more than six years. His church has blessed his union with Kelly, as have both families.

Today he is a pediatric Intensive Care RN, respected by his peers, honored by his employer, Children’s MercyHospital in Kansas City, loved and respected by his church and active in the gay community (he testified for the passage of Kansas City’s Protection and Support of Domestic Partners Bill). Scott and Kelly sing openly and proudly in the Heartland Men’s Chorus that always brings not only a great musical presence, but a strong and positive message to each concert.

Twenty years ago I knew I loved my son just as he was. Today, I have come to know and love so many in “the gay community” that I might never have known except through our journey with other PFLAG parents.and their children and friends.

We will continue to work with other reconciling United Methodists for acceptance and full inclusion in our church for all of our children and friends. Indeed, we look forward to the day when all of our churches not only speak about but fully embrace the vision of Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors. This is not an easy task, but a loving challenge by God to live His unconditional love that we all enjoy as His children.

 

Next blog post: Nan and Peggy’s Story               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/623

Kathy England: A Mother’s Story

Rev. Don Marsh: Haven’t We Come a Long Way?!

My story is not one of coming out, but of finding out. Having grown up in a time (born in 1924) and place (rural Nebraska) where the issue of homosexuality was unspoken and not described in home, church, school or community. Having served during World War II in the U.S. Army (1944-1946), when its policy on homosexuality was basically “Don’t ask, don’t care, don’t even think about it,” and having graduated from seminary with nary a serious in-class discussion of how to deal with the issue, I was ill-prepared to cope with it in my early ministry — more than I knew! I tried to be open and nonjudgmental in my counseling style, but I had little real comprehension of the depth of pain and sense of exclusion involved.

Then, while at Hanscom Park Church in Omaha (late 1960”s, early 70’s), I helped establish and served as an anonymous volunteer telephone responder for Omaha’s first telephone HELP-Line—long before the 911 emergency system was established. For seven years, my weekly on-call schedule was from 11 p.m. Friday to 7:00 a.m. Saturday—a time when parties happened, inhibitions faded, rash deeds and thoughts occurred, with guilt and fear crashing in. We kept a tally of our calls, not by name but by situation. Over those seven years, an average of two out of seven of the cries for help on my shift came from callers, mostly men, wrestling with their homosexuality. Among those who were high-risk for suicide, the percentage was even higher. The church? That’s the last place they’d think of for help—some after bitter trials. Moving right along…

After I retired in 1990, I volunteered for seven years with the Nebraska Aids Project in Lincoln. Following training, I was assigned as an AIDS-Buddy. That was when AIDS was a dark, burgeoning epidemic,. Positive diagnosis was tantamount to a death sentence, Several of my Buddies, all gay, died—some as prison inmates. Many of our AIDS buddies were estranged from their families, and especially from their churches. Some religious leaders called AIDS God’s punishment for the sin of being gay. I conducted a dozen funerals for AIDS victims. Most had grown up “in the church,” but felt cast out. Parents estranged from their sons for years because they were gay were often reconciled at the AIDS deathbed, crying softly in their sorrow at having wasted years in separation. As to the church, most of my AIDS Buddies in Lincoln and those desperate HELP-Line callers in Omaha shared a sense of utter abandonment. The church has come a long way in the last half- century, haven’t we? Haven’t we?

 

Next blog post: Kathy England: A Mother’s Story               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/620

Rev. Don Marsh: Haven’t We Come a Long Way?!

Liz Bady: Advocate for Reconciliation.

Christ United Methodist Church – RUMOLA member.

My journey as an advocate for change in the United Methodist Church and as an ally for GLBT persons has lead me to grow in my faith and as a person. In that growth has come challenge and conflict, but I have learned that being a person who does not speak out is not who I am.

When I was a child, my Mom and Dad (a Methodist minister) were people who were open to discussions and challenges. They believed in civil rights and human rights, so they laid a foundation in me that was for the rights of others. They embraced change in old ways that didn’t work.

I grew up in Maine and lived there for 52 years. When I was in my forties I was going to a large (for Maine) United Methodist Church. I decided that it would be good for our church to look into the Reconciling Congregation movement. I urged my pastor to hold a class on sexuality or homosexuality. We did this and out of it came a core group of fourteen people who wanted change. We worked for four years and finally after many meetings, discussion groups, classes and worship services our church became a Reconciling Congregation. This was a journey in itself and I learned much.

When I moved to Lincoln, Nebraska I looked for a church whose mission and vision statement matched how I felt about things. Christ UMC fit what I wanted and I started attending. Before I even came to Lincoln I met (online) Maureen Vetter and we felt the same way about homosexuality and the United Methodist Church. I was nervous moving to Nebraska where I had heard that it was conservative. I knew that I did not share many of the people’s feelings, but with Maureen’s help.l met many people who felt as I did.

Over the last few days I have been reflecting more and more about how I came to be part of this journey and how much people’s stories make a difference. When I was a young married woman I lived in a small country town. I lived ten miles from a city and bought many of my groceries and got my mail at a small country store a short way from my home. One day I heard that the older couple who owned the country store were going to retire and it was to be sold. Two men bought the store. Their names were Adam and Roy (I have changed their names). I did not have much experience with homosexuality, but the rumor was that they were a couple.

Adam and Roy were kind, caring people. I got to know them and got to be their friends, especially Adam. Adam was very friendly and we had many talks at the counter. Adam made lovely cakes and when my daughter turned two I had him make her an adorable bear birthday cake. Some people made fun of them, but most people accepted them into the fabric of our little town.  One day I heard that Roy had gotten hurt and was hurt badly. He had gone on a trip to northern Maine and had stopped at one of the turnpike’s rest stops. While he was there he was badly beaten with a lead pipe. It took him a long while to recover and because he had been beaten on his head somehow bacteria got introduced into his system and he ended up with bacterial meningitis and almost died.  I felt so bad for Roy and for Adam. After this incident they seemed beaten down and depressed. The people who did this never were caught and, if I remember correctly, the police didn’t seem very interested.

As I thought about it I came to realize that this was a hate crime. It was a crime that had been committed just because of Roy’s sexual orientation. This was before Hate Crimes legislation and statutes against such crimes. I think this was the beginning of my wanting to be vocal for change and to speak out. Adam and Roy didn’t stay in my little town. I never could get Adam to tell me why they were moving on, but I think now I can see that they were afraid. They moved to a bigger city – a place where maybe they could blend in more. I missed them when they moved away and I doubt that they ever realized the deep impression their lives had on me. This is why sharing our stories are so important and one example of how someone else’s story worked for change. I am glad that we here in Nebraska are stepping out and sharing more and more. Touching each other’s lives can make a difference.

 

Next blog post: Rev. Don Marsh: Haven’t We Come a Long Way?!               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/617

Liz Bady: Advocate for Reconciliation.

Alan’s Story

I guess my mind knew I was gay years before my conscious did. Starting in elementary school, I really began to notice guys, and it continued throughout Jr. High and High School. Yeah, I tried to find a girlfriend and such, just to be like all the other guys, but when I got in a situation of a girl liking me, I would panic. Even in High School, I still never labeled myself as gay, because I knew I would outgrow it (yeah right). My father was transferred to Kansas City in 1976 when I was a Junior in High School. I still had not fully admitted to myself that I was gay. A week before senior prom, a good friend of mine, Robin, asked me if I wanted to go to the prom dance with her. I agreed, because I knew it was what was expected of me. A few days before prom, I took her to dinner, and after being uncomfortable during dinner, I told her I couldn’t go to the dance, because (well, I really don’t remember the “because”), but anyway, I broke the prom date. I got home that night, and told my parents I had decided not to go to prom, and was immediately met with an upset. The first thing my mother said was “why did you break the date….what’s wrong, do you like boys better than girls or something?” I was shocked that she would even suggest something like that (maybe because in the back of my mind….I knew it was true). The issue was dropped, and I didn’t go to the prom dance.

A few more years passed, and I moved out on my own. At the time, I was working for an insurance company, and had met my “first gay person” Charlie (he died some years ago of Aids….the first person I ever knew to die from Aids). God Bless Charlie.

Charlie befriended me, as he detected that I was gay (i still hadn’t admitted it to myself yet). He flat out asked me at lunch one day “are you gay?”….I kind of freaked out…thought about it for a second, and said…”yeah….I think I am”. He smiled, and said….don’t worry, its ok. There are millions of gay people. Subsequently, he asked me if I would like to go out with him for a drink after work, and we could talk about it (and he meant it non-sexually…..what a perfect guy to come out to). We did go out, and I hung to him like glue. Scared to death. . . .

. . .  I finally broke down, called my mother, and told her I had something to tell her. I was in tears. I thought my life was over, and was afraid her and my father would dis-own me. I had 2 friends who had recently come out to their parents, and they had no relationships with their parents any more. I had always been close to both my parents, and couldn’t bear the thought of loosing them. So there I was…blurting out that I was gay (now 32 years old….yeah….i surfaced to them late)….and got really worried when my mother said “I am so disappointed in you”…….

I was crushed….I didn’t know what to say. I just said…..”Mom….I love you…and I’m sorry”. She said….”well…I am sorry too”. I really thought my life was over. I didn’t want to exist without my parents acceptance.

She continued by saying….

“Alan….I am disappointed….that you didn’t think that your father and I didn’t love you enough to accept whoever you are. You are our son….we have wondered for years if you were Gay…and now we know. Did you really think our love was conditional…or so shallow?” I cried…even harder.

Well….to summarize….my brothers attempt failed…he has apologized every day since….but I still love him….I do. He is my brother. My sister does still have problems with me being gay….but we just don’t discuss it. She knows, loves me, wants me to be happy, and that is all that needs to be said 🙂

My coming out, was very late, very painful, but all said and done, was very positive. To the younger crowd: Don’t ever underestimate your family or friends. We are in 2001 now, the world in general…I have found….is more accepting. My parents are pushing their 70’s, and we are still very close. I have not lost any friends. I manage an office of a maintenance facility with 65 men that know I am gay, and we all get along great, and have respect for each other. Heck…..they tell me some of the best gay jokes I have ever heard 🙂 Although I am still not, and have never been in a full time relationship….I keep my hopes up. There IS someone out there for all of us. The longer we have to wait (I hate the waiting), the better and more appreciative we will be.

God Bless Charlie, may he rest in peace. God Bless David….I know you are out there somewhere 🙂 God Bless Chris (I didn’t go into him…that’s another story…the one man I truly loved…and still do, that didn’t think he was good enough for me….BUT HE IS). And…God Bless my mother and father….I love them both dearly….I was born to a perfect set of parents. God Bless my sister, her husband, and the 4 beautiful children she has brought into this world…they are my world. And especially….God Bless you Phillip….my brother….I know life is hard for you…but I (we…your family) love you. Hope you get back on your feet before it is too late.

 

Next blog post: Liz Bady:: Advocate for Reconciliation               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/614

Alan’s Story

Abby’s Story

I am 18, and as I grasp this issue of homosexuality, I realize that it is something I always knew, sort of a silent understanding with myself, but life went on, and growing up I never made it a big issue. I felt different from a very early age, but than again, I never knew what it was like to be very normal anyway, so I figure that I didn’t miss much. Having an older brother guaranteed me to an adolescence of tomboy activities. Hanging out with his friends was much cooler than hanging out with dumb girls who only cared about what the boys thought anyway. The teenage years struck, with a startling result, and all of my brothers friends began to be interested in me. Not friend interested, but girlfriend interested. I had already had my slew of boyfriends… always looking for something that I suppose would never be there. Then I had my first lesbian experience, and I finally admitted to myself that I was gay. You would never know it from looking at me, which is better I suppose, because I want people to know me for who I am, not my sexual orientation. Anyway, attending a magnet Art High School, where allot of the guys were openly gay, led me to finally coming out to my friends. Some of them said they had their suspicions because I never had boyfriends around, and others said they had no clue. They all took it well, and the point is, they accepted ME, That segued into me telling my brother. He accepted it in disbelief, because he always thought that everything about me was perfect. I told him that I don’t see my sexuality as a curse, and that if he wanted to think everything around my life was still perfect, he could. I have yet to tell my parents. I figure I will wait until I am out of the house, either in college, or after that. Part of me thinks they already know, but that they really don’t want to admit it. My parents are Catholic Republicans, very proud of my grades and talent, and constantly trying to fix me up with the “perfect” guy. I let them think that I don’t have a steady boyfriend because I go to a high school where allot of the guys are gay, and that I truly love going to movies with their co-worker’s sons. I do this because at this time in my life, it’s easier than hurting them. I know that time will end soon enough, and that they will love me nonetheless, but until then, I keep it to myself. I am who I am, and that is enough for me.

It is early in the morning, in the other room I can hear the soft sleeping sounds of my partner, Terry. I am concerned that she will wake and find me in here on the computer, instead of studying for exams. She is 11 years older than I, and sometimes can be rather paternalistic, (notice I didn’t say maternalistic). I also refer to this as her wearing the “pants of crank”. Nevertheless, since I came across this site and read a lot of the sad, happy, inspiring and just plain brave stories of so many men and women, I have wanted to add my own insights and share my “coming out story”.

I like to say that in a sense, I never actually “came out” because I had never known I was “in”. It took me ‘til I was in my later twenties to realize that I was a lesbian, bisexual, gay, whatever you want to label it. Was I so blind and stupid I lived in a closet for 25 odd years and didn’t even know it? (Actually, I was feeling a little cramped, oh, and the mothballs….). Gay friends and acquaintances said later “We knew it all the time”. Maybe they are just trying to prove their strong “gaydar” skills or maybe they’re right, I don’t know.

My mother was not wholly surprised that day I told her I was dating another woman. I think she half suspected I would not let her drift into middle age without pulling some rabbits out of the hat. She even asked if I was “doing this just to spite her”. (Funny how she always thinks everything is about her). She should have expected it from me, the child who always fought for the underdog, who could never leave well enough alone, who lived with her heart on her sleeve. If our family had a black sheep (and you didn’t include my alcoholic father, who was really more of a “black-out”), I was it.

The first time I had sex with a woman I was more than a little drunk, a lot lonely, and a little bit in love with Meg, this smart funny, troubled, self proclaimed “dyke” I had met through a close friend of mine who was gay. ( Hey, we were friends for years, and I thought for the longest time her partner was just her roomate. Yes, they slept in the same bed, did everything together, but so???)

Loving another woman, touching the landscape of her body that was so like my own, kissing her, holding her, was a little strange and yet beautiful experience for a woman who thought she was straight and just hadn’t met that special guy. It was almost like the ultimate way of loving myself. The thing was, I didn’t feel ashamed, embarrassed, or that I had done anything “wrong”. Instead, I felt like announcing to the clerk at the gas station and anyone else who would listen about this wonderful experience I had just had. (I didn’t).

When I left her apartment that morning I knew that something very meaningful had just happened, but I thought it meant I was “open” in my sexuality, that I was curious, bisexual, whatever. But I still told myself it didn’t mean I was gay.

I had always been attracted to men, had my share of boyfriends and sexual experiences as a teenager but never long term, and then as I got older and gained a lot of weight I chose to be uninvolved because I didn’t feel I could be intimate with anyone looking and feeling about my body as I did. Plus it wasn’t like a lot of guys were chasing fat girls. So I went off to university and then spent the first five years of my twenties celibate, lonely, busy with school, friends, hobbies, my career, and fantasies of losing weight, meeting that perfect man, and having the white picket fence.

Eventually I did lose quite a bit of weight and was feeling more comfortable with myself and started dating and actively meeting men. It felt hollow. It also felt like I just wanted sex. I didn’t feel like I connected at all with men on an emotional level. I didn’t understand them the way I did women. And then there was Meg.

It took a few months after that (and also a few more nights with Meg, though we decided to eventually be just friends), for me to realize I really was gay. Of all things it was a porno movie that finally made me sure.(Who knew they could be educational or enlightening?) As I watched the man and woman on the screen I thought, that’s not what I want anymore. I was sexually attracted to men, yes, but I didn’t want to live with one, spend my life with one, now that I knew there were other possibilities. To a lot of gays, I know, it was never a choice, but I think in a way, it was for me. I could choose to do what gave me the most happiness and joy, and who wouldn’t choose that? Still it was difficult for me to grasp that the “American Dream” of husband, wife, kids, and picket fence would never be for me. And I grieved for that. It had been all I had ever wanted since I was a little girl.

So I was confused, stressed out, coming to terms emotionally with my realization that I wanted to love a woman. And like others in my situation I called up the GLBT group in my city and spoke to the woman who was then the president of the group for some advice and reassurance. It is her that I hear soflty snoring in the next room.

She is the love of my life, I feel that I have been so blessed to have a best friend, life partner and lover all rolled into one human being. Terry is more transgendered than gay and I suppose I am more bisexual than lesbian so we are kind of the classic femme/ dyke couple. If there were a husband in this relationship, she’d be it, and I the wife. But its different because she has just enough felinity so that she thinks like a woman, loves like a woman, even though she’d rather be shopping for power tools than shoes. Over the years she has considered a sex reversal operation, and maybe one day she will. It won’t matter to me. I have discovered that its not male or female that I love but a person, a soul. And in her I have the best of both worlds.

We have been together four years now, and live our lives very openly. I talk to strangers, friends, family and coworkers about my partner the way they talk about their husbands or wives. I am very matter of fact about it. In the beginning, I told family and those close to me “Guess what, I am seeing someone new. Only, its not a guy.” Then I would just stand there, with a small smile on my face and wait for their reaction. For some, like my brother, it was easy, he just said, “Ok, if your happy, that’s great”. For others, like my mother, it is an ongoing road to acceptance. (The other day we were talking and I told her that I was happy. She said “No you’re not. You just think you are”. I wonder, isn’t that the same thing?).

Oh, and the American Dream thing? I didn’t have to give it up after all. My partner builds a great white picket fence., and we’re planning our first baby next year.

 

Next blog post: Allen’s Story         https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/611

Abby’s Story