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

Anonymous 1’s Story

. . . As I read what I’ve written, my life sounds grim and my outlook bleak. But know that my life has been very good; indeed, I’ve lived richly. .  .When I see one of my paintings on display or read parts of the novel I’ve written I even amaze myself at times. I’ve been very blessed. I love life!

I was born onto a Nebraska sand hills cattle ranch—a fifth generation descendant from pioneers—into a close family of great grandparents and all the way to fifth cousins. I was the oldest of nineteen grandchildren in our immediate family and the rest were stair steps down from me—the last being eighteen years younger. . . I am very thankful for the time, place, and the salt of the earth people I was born into which were mainly of Irish, German, and Welch extraction.

Yet very early I knew I was different from the others. As adolescents will, my cousins, friends, and I experimented. But when the time came, they put it away and I didn’t. Although I had heard the word ‘queer,’ bandied about from fifth grade on, I had never heard the word, ‘homosexual,’ until I was a sophomore; or ‘gay,’ used in that sense until I was in college. I knew I was all of that though, just as I knew the word ‘queer’ applied to me in fifth grade. And I was surprised to learn I wasn’t the only one in the world because I had never met another. I thought of myself as some unique perverse freak.

But I knew what I was just as a boy knows he’s a boy and a girl knows she is a girl. I thought maybe I’d out grow it when the time came to marry and that worried me. As a friend I enjoyed the girl with whom I went steady for two years in high school until she became more insistent and we broke up. Various college dates were disasters too and I just wanted to spend my life in a desert lime shack I’d seen in a movie. There I could live with a couple of sun bleached cats and a flea-bitten dog and not ever have to deal with the opposite sex. The girl I thought about marrying in my early career has become a life-long friend; but the thought of having sex with any of them was repulsive. Even the act of kissing was a trial.

So the thought I might all of a sudden change and start caring for women sexually scared me because I wanted to stay the same even if it meant the Nevada desert. Liking women in that way just wasn’t me. At the same time I thought, ~this is me—the pervert; and I’ve chosen a career that involves working closely with young men. No one must ever find out. And so I turned off physically and I hid for forty years.

 

Abby’s Story https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/606

Anonymous 1’s Story

Coming out and Signs of Hope in Our Lives

My story of Sacred Worth is about my JOURNEY of COMING OUT by becoming a Reconciling United Methodist in 1996. It was just before General Conference in 1996. Nancy McMurtry, a good friend, asked me to sign a card saying I would be a “Reconciling United Methodist” and I decided to sign it realizing it was time for me to “come out” as an ally. I had no idea where this JOURNEY would take me at that time but I knew it was a commitment to COME OUT as an ally and to COME OUT personally to be more visible as a person supporting persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities. I also knew I would have a lot to learn along the way with many challenges and struggles as most journeys are!

I knew what “coming out” meant as I had come out to myself about being sexually abused as a child in the years just ahead of this. I have come to realize that this very simple task of signing this card, (or signing on at the new website http://www.Rmnetwork.org) became the starting point for me to mentally & spiritually take the risk to start this journey of listening to other stories and being more aware of those around me who were searching for any SIGN OF HOPE in our churches and

communities to be SAFE.

Through the past eleven years I have become more aware of how important small SIGNS OF HOPE are to all of us and especially to folks who are looking for any shred of HOPE in our churches.  Once when my husband was called to a home to meet with an older couple in the church he had no idea what they were wanting to share. He arrived to find them wanting to share about the HOPE they had found in a simple church newsletter article about an upcoming Telling Our Stories” program planned by RUMOLA at Cornerstone in Lincoln. They had used a yellow marker to HIGHLIGHT it in the church newsletter. Then they told him about their daughter and her partner and how they wanted to come to this gathering. This simple newsletter article became a way of sharing a SIGN OF HOPE for them and in return they gave all of us a SIGN OF HOPE back when they came to this gathering!

Another time recently a mother emailed us to tell us how glad she was we had a Reconciling Community in our church as one of her children had just come out to them over the holidays. She was so relieved to know there was an OPEN HEARTS group in the church so she could come and find strength for this new journey. She had read about it in our church newsletter as her SIGN OF HOPE!

Newsletter articles don’t seem very important but another person came to our last meeting from another town because of seeing an article about our meeting in a local church newsletter. So these simple SIGNS OF HOPE are so important as we have many people looking for anyway to feel accepted and affirmed by the church. Parents, families and friends in our local churches are looking for people they can trust and safely talk to about having children who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.

When I think of all the SIGNS OF HOPE in my life through new experiences, new friends, & new faith understandings about sexuality that have GRACED my life through signing this card eleven years ago, I rejoice in all the ways spring is COMING OUT now in our lives; and I think of all the ways we need to show SIGNS OF HOPE to each other through our church newsletters, our conversations, our rainbows, our groups, our emails, and our new ways of making our churches SAFE to ALL persons!

We can keep COMING OUT like spring, like newsletter articles, like sharing our STORIES OF SACRED WORTh, like the rainbow, like Jesus CAME OUT with his message of LOVE to those around him who were marginalized and shared his compassion with all persons! Signs of HOPE!

Maureen Vetter, Grand Island, NE

PS:- I rejoice every time I come out to myself or someone else comes out to me-

 

Next blog post: Anonymous 1’s Story               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/603

Coming out and Signs of Hope in Our Lives

Foreword to Stories of Sacred Worth

Stories of Sacred Worth

Foreword

By Phyllis Burrows

I am very proud to have been chosen to put this book together.  I am straight but I do have a story that explains why I care so much for all diverse people, especially the gays and lesbians that we lovingly accept in our church family.

When I was about eight years old, we had a neighbor who was a woman, but she always had her hair cut like a man’s and wore men’s suits and ties, etc.  She was a really nice person, but I couldn’t understand why she dressed as she did.  One day I asked my mother if she knew the answer.

Mama took me into the living room and had me sit down on the sofa.  She told me she wanted me to listen carefully to what she said, and to remember it all my life.

She told me that Jeanette was a very nice woman, but she was different in some ways.  She explained that she was attracted to women just as Mama was attracted to my father who was a man.  She said that was a God Given attraction, and that there were also men who were attracted to men, and that they were living as they were supposed to live.  She told me to continue to like Jeanette, and to respect her and anyone else I would meet whose life was the same.

That was a very long time ago, but I have remembered my mother’s kind words regarding our neighbor, and have always respected any GLBTs I have met.  FUMC is a truly outstanding church family, and I am proud to be a member.  This booklet is a tribute to everyone who has the courage to live their God-Given Attraction.

 

Next blog post: Coming out and Signs of Hope in Our Lives               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/600

Foreword to Stories of Sacred Worth