Tag Archives: advocacy

Tales Of A Former Advocate: A Farewell

I began this blog in 2010 to document my own experience as a Christian lesbian who had a heart for loving discussion between the Church and the LGBT community. I felt that fire in my belly to reach out, to live in the tension, to make a difference. Friends, I cannot do it anymore.

I never imagined I would be writing a “farewell” post to a group of people I hold so dearly. But the truth of the matter is I can no longer put myself through this emotional turmoil. Ever since the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year to legalize same-sex marriage at the federal level, it’s been one letdown after another. My friends, family, long lost relatives, and strangers have come out of the woodwork to exclaim how terrible, sinful, and perverted the LGBT community is: How we are ruining the sanctity of marriage, how we are not worthy of a place at God’s table, how we are the moral decay of the nation. Things have only been made worse by the fact the recent Kim Davis fiasco has been unfolding near my hometown. (I canceled a trip home on Labor Day, because I could not bear the thought of being around that kind of hatefulness.) Some of my own family members are calling this the Christian Holocaust. I cannot even wrap my mind around that kind of ignorance and selfishness. I still can’t understand why someone would think their religious freedom includes taking away the rights of other people. There is immense poverty, sickness, and death that plagues this world on a daily basis… and they are concerned that two people of the same gender getting married will somehow take away their 1st Amendment rights. It’s asinine.

I’ve been told that once people knew I was gay—someone they’ve known their entire lives, someone they love—they would learn to listen to the issues pervading the Church as a whole. Once I came out, this issue would (supposedly) be personal to far more people. Instead, I’ve discovered most people don’t want to hear my story. People see me differently once they know I’m gay. Yes, there are those Christians out there who love me for who I am; and oh my goodness, I am forever indebted to them! But these people who love me just as I am have already fought the good fight. I didn’t need to convince them LGBT individuals were worthy of love, because they already knew it. Friends, there are people out there who were created to be advocates for the LGBT community. But I am simply not one of them. I thought I was strong enough, but I’m not. I’m tired of sobbing. I’m tired of helplessly watching my partner cry over other people’s insensitivity.

I’ve been through hell and back to discover my heartfelt position on the issue of LGBT inclusion in the Church. I cannot spend one more minute giving my time to people who acknowledge the fact I’ve studied and researched this topic, yet still feel it necessary to make an itemized list of why they believe my life is sinful. We may not agree. Fine. But I will no longer accept less than the same respect I give them regarding their deeply held beliefs.

I do not wish to call myself a Christian anymore. I love Jesus and will forever have him written on my heart… but I refuse to outwardly wear the label of a group whose name has become synonymous with hate to far too many people. The term “Christian” wasn’t used until a few decades after Jesus walked the earth, and it’s a word that no longer has positive connotations for me, and for so many others. Ultimately, it is just a label, and I refuse to wear it. I have become a member of the Native American Church—a spiritual group who does not judge me for who I love, a group who encourages each individual to seek out a personal, profound, spiritual path. For me, it is where I choose to continue to live out my faith. For me, it is home.

To hate-spewing Christians, I will say the following: I hope the reconciliation movement continues to grow within the walls of your churches. Christian LGBT advocates are the only hope for the future of your religious institution. I hope you fully understand that because of you, countless LGBT individuals will never, ever know Jesus. But more than that, I hope you have a change of heart before it’s too late. Don’t judge the LGBT community; love on them. Would that really be so bad? And just to be abundantly clear: It’s not Jesus or the loving Christians who led me to abandon the Christian label. It’s you.

For those of you who’ve read my posts over the last five years: Words cannot express my gratitude to you. To have a support group from so many people I’ve never even met in person, it really meant the world to me. I appreciate all of you who shared your stories, who reached out in love, who fought for equality. I am forever indebted to you. Obviously, things are changing in our favor. The past five years have been crucial for the progress of LGBT inclusion. And things will continue to get better from here.

I’ve discovered for me, personally, I have to find ways to live my life without worrying what others think of me. When I separate myself from the kind of negativity that’s been going on lately, life becomes so much richer. This is a necessary season of refining, a necessary season of pruning. Because you and I? We’re on to better things. And a couple generations from now, we’ll be able to tell our grandkids we were on the right side of history… the side of inclusion and love.

Always,
Mandy

Pulling Up The Drawbridge

“Time to pull up the drawbridge.” That’s what my dad says when it’s time to get re-centered. My dad is an extremely social guy—not at all like me in that regard—but he still needs the occasional recharge. He’ll get his grocery supplies, refine his Netflix queue, lock the doors, and hibernate. It seems like that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few months now. I go to work, then come home and pull up the drawbridge. For extroverts, that may sound depressing. But I’m not sad. Not at all. I’m actually the happiest I’ve been in a really, really long time! Life is good, and it’s only going to get better from here.

In the midst of the documentary project, and some other side projects, I’ve been quite busy lately. I decided to temporarily disable my Facebook account in order to get some things done. (I’m still currently on Twitter and Instagram; Somehow those don’t take up major chunks of my day the way that Facebook tends to do.) What was meant to be a one week hiatus has turned into over two weeks (and counting). I’m astonished at how much I’m actually enjoying being off Facebook. I’ve taken breaks before, and I couldn’t wait to sign back in! But this time is different, and I think I might be starting to understand why.

If you follow my other blog, you might remember a post about HSPs (Highly Sensitive People). I won’t go into detail here, but in a nutshell, I am affected way too much by what others think of me… to the point that it’s debilitating. Therefore, when I really immerse myself in advocacy work, I am engaged in lots of conversation. Some of it is uncomfortable, and that’s ok. We must have discussions which take us out of our comfort level, or else nothing will change. That being said, I found myself in dire need of a recharge. Being off Facebook has resulted in a more even-keeled emotional state. Although I really try to stay out of controversial Facebook arguments, I still saw them every day on my news feed, whether I participated or not. I felt flooded with negativity. I was focused on things that cultivated anger instead of peace. I was reminded of those who think differently of me now. And really, why give those people even one second of my time, worrying about what they think?

When I set out on this venture of being honest about who I am, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. And I wouldn’t go back in the closet for anything. But sometimes, I just grow weary. Perhaps advocacy work isn’t for me. Perhaps I internalize it a bit too much. And maybe things will change in the future. But for me, right now, all I want to do is stay inside my safe, comfortable, predictable world. I want cozy up inside my house with my awesome little family.

And I want to pull up the drawbridge.

KickStarter Launch Off To An Amazing Start!

I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Thank you guys so much for being so supportive of the new documentary project. Please take a moment to read the first update!

One Liberation Under God

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 7.59.53 AMHi, everyone! After months of contemplation, we finally launched the KickStarter page for the project on Tuesday. It had reached a point where I had to stop worrying about number crunching and statistics, and just actually do it! So far, you guys have exceeded my expectations. In less than three days, we reached half of our first goal of $400!

By now, you probably know how the project will work. But you may be wondering how this fundraising thing works. In order to explain why we set such a low goal, I’ll include an excerpt from the project page:

Nashville is my current city, and northeastern KY is my hometown. Therefore, no extra funds are necessary to cover those interviews. Destinations closest to me will take top priority, so we can make the most out of the time and money we have. So why did we only set a $400 goal? 

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LGBTQ Advocacy In the Bible Belt

It’s so good to be back in community with all of you; I’ve missed you. During my time away, I worked on a few projects: one of which was posted here on the Believe Out Loud blog this past Friday. It was a joy to write about one of my dearest friends and allies. Join the conversation: Is Christian LGBTQ advocacy awakening in your city?

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Bisexuality in a Heterosexual Marriage: Thoughts From the Inside

bisexual flagAdvocacy is vital to the LGBT community. Allies are the single most important factor when it comes to the overall education of society. Of course, one of the most effective ways to change hearts and minds is to share personal experiences. I had the chance to speak with two dear friends about the issue of LGBT advocacy. What makes this couple unique? They are in a heterosexual marriage, yet both of them are bisexual. They could choose to obscure their orientation—to hide behind their marriage license. No one would be the wiser. But they choose advocacy. They choose to openly support the rights of LGBT folks. I thought their point of view was well worth hearing. Without further ado, meet my wonderfully bisexual friends, Fred and Carrie.

Mandy: Is your bisexuality an important part of your identity? Why or why not?

Fred: I would say, in a private, personal sense, yes, as it relates to my wife and I. Publicly  not as much. I don’t publicly identify as bisexual (such as on Facebook or the like), not out of any sort of fear of reprisal or shame, but because I feel it would be somewhat disingenuous. I have never had a romantic relationship with another man, although prior to meeting my wife, it wasn’t something I would have considered completely out of the question. I suppose the best way to put it is that I am emotionally relatively straight, but physically relatively bisexual. I do find myself occasionally attracted to men, as my wife does towards women. We are romantically and emotionally attracted to one another, but appreciate the physical attraction that we are capable of harboring towards people of our respective genders.

In that respect, I don’t believe my capacity/tendency for physical attraction to other men terribly important to my self-image (when compared to the things that more definitively make me “Me”, such as my love of music, the films, movies, and books which I love, my hobbies, my history and accomplishments, et cetera). On the other hand, though, my cognizance of my own internal compass of physical attraction highlights and puts into greater relief the struggle that (I suppose what I would casually call) “true” bisexual, gay, lesbian, and trans-gendered people endure. I could not possibly recognize the potential for same-sex desire within myself and simultaneously call homosexuality or any non-hetero sexual identity “wrong” or shameful. Adding to this, seeing the many varied expressions of homosexual behavior in thousands of other animals throughout nature, the entire moniker of “unnatural” proves laughably false. It is no more “unnatural” than the rarer-than-average expression of a recessive gene, or red hair, or predilection for a specific type of food or music.

I suppose it could be said that my own personal attractions inform my beliefs and opinions, but as they distill into a sort of “straight with exceptions” rather than a true “bisexual” (meaning, romantically and physically interested in both genders equally), I do not publically identify as one, except while having these sorts of conversations with friends who ask.

Carrie: My sexuality is an important part of my private life. Although I’m physically attracted to other women, I’ve only experienced romantic inclinations with men. I embrace my sexuality and don’t consider it a source of shame; in fact, I frequently discuss it with close friends.

Mandy: Why do you choose to identify as bisexual, even though you happen to be married to someone of the opposite gender?

Fred: Well, see above for part of this answer. I married Carrie primarily because we are best friends who happen to share a physical attraction to one another. We emotionally innervate one another, and function as one whole. We enjoy many of the same things, and share many of the same views (though we still argue like anyone else, haha). The emotional component is much more important to me than the simple, primal one of  “am I solely and wholly sexually attracted to her?” I doubt anyone could say that about their spouse. While we are faithful to one another completely, we are still human, gladly so, and still experience attraction towards others of both genders. The most important thing to me is that we love one another for who we are, that we weather the storms and springtimes together, and that we HAVE these kinds of conversations in order to best understand one another.

Carrie: My husband and I understand and support one another’s sexuality. I don’t feel insecure because of who he might be attracted to, because these feelings of attraction are normal and natural.

Mandy: When did you first discover your sexual orientation?

Fred: I experienced the physical attraction to both genders from a very young age. Through years and years of conditioning, I suppose, I grew into being “straight” for the most part. However, as I grew older, and especially as I discovered the many and sundry nooks and crannies of the more adult corners of the Internet, I realized that I had never truly dealt with my internal attraction to males or accepted it as a part of myself. Now, of course, I know it’s nothing to be ashamed or afraid of, and it has done me a world of good to move on as a more “whole” person, one that can acknowledge who I am without issue.

Carrie: When I was a teenager, I never seriously considered the possibility of being anything but straight, as my entire social circle constantly reinforced that “straight” was normal and moral. It wasn’t until I was in college and studied the psychological aspects of human sexuality that I realized there are many varieties of sexual orientation beyond simply “gay” or “straight.” I then began to accept my feelings of attraction to both genders.

Mandy: You take advocacy very seriously. According to most people, your lifestyle would be considered “heterosexual”. Could you tell other straight people why it’s so important to advocate for full-inclusion of LGBT’s?

Fred: Well, I tend to liken it to what our nation went through around 60-70 years ago. Why should white people care what happens to other races/ethnicities when it doesn’t concern them? My answer is the same to both: because the folks concerned are human beings with worth and value who deserve dignity and respect. Today, like then, I think we who are not exclusively gay, bi, lesbian, or trans have to ask ourselves- “What side of history do we want to be on, here?” 
As for myself, I want to always be on the side of the oppressed, on the side of the underdog, on the side of those who are fighting for truth and fairness and egalitarian equality. Sexual preference should not determine our treatment of other human beings.

Carrie: Sometimes people struggle to empathize with others whose lifestyle differs from their own. However, they need to stop measuring people’s worth by their sexuality, just as we shouldn’t measure someone’s worth by their race or gender.

Mandy: Do you think we will see full marriage equality in your lifetime?

Fred: I sure as hell hope so. Like the prior question, I believe this shift should occur as soon as possible. Every day that we don’t institute full, open-armed inclusion and respect of others is a day that we allow more Matthew Shepards to occur. It’s another day that hospitals may not allow partners to say their final goodbyes due to angry, unaccepting families and lack of Power of Attorney. It’s another day that full insurance benefits may not be available to who would otherwise be a spouse. It’s another day that children in foster care go without loving parents because agencies won’t recognize the legitimacy and love present in a same-sex home, as if it would be different than a heterosexual household. Both my father and my wife’s father walked out on our families, and I and my sister are adopted. Now, while the plural of anecdote is not data, that still (to me) says something about the purported strength of hetero families over same-sex ones (it’s nonsense).

Carrie: I certainly hope so. The tide is shifting in that direction. While ultimately the decision lies in the hands of lawmakers, there is much that citizens can do in terms of advocacy.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••Each of us have a unique opportunity to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. The sooner we engage in life-giving conversations, the sooner all people will be liberated from the bonds of discrimination, prejudice, and intolerance.