April 12, 2007

African-American Gays Often Shunned at Historically Black Colleges

We often look to our institutions of higher learning to be on the cutting endge of social change, but according to this Associated Press story, one thing has been very slow in changing at America's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)---GLBT students aren't particularly welcome.

At numerous black colleges students say outdated rules and homophobia block them from forming the gay campus voice common at majority white institutions.

According to the report, a cause-and-effect of this is likely many of these institutions having been founded by religious institutions and African-American churches' (often passionate) opposition to homosexuality.

It's kind of hard to be out on campus and still be successful," said Vincent Allen Jr., head of Safe Space at Atlanta's Morehouse College. "As an out gay man, if I wanted to pledge, that door is pretty much shut to me. That's just the way it is."

This report draws a comparision between some of the major HBCUs in Virginia and large universities like Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia regarding their acceptance of GLBT students and organizations. The HBCU's do not stack up very well.

I have written before that I believe GLBT activists need to find their own voice in the 21st century and not try to piggy-back onto the African-American civil rights struggles of the 1960's, but I still find it ironic that the HBCUs appear to be a stronghold against rights for GLBT students, even more so because of their ties to religious organizations.

Hopefully giving that situation some national attention will help enbarass leaders at those schools to reevaluate their policies and consider making ALL students feel welcome.

April 11, 2007

Feature on Ex-Gay Therapy...In Glamour Magazine?

I never pictured Glamour Magazine being a source for this blog, but there is a big-time story featured in the latest issue that certainly pertains to the scope of what I cover here.

Christine Bakke, who recently co-founded the community "Beyond Ex-Gay," was featured in a story titled "They tried to cure me of being gay." Christine talks about the influence Love In Action, the ex-gay group sponsored by Focus on the (Straight) Family had on her parents, and how her mother told her that, since she was a lesbian, they would not be able to spend eternity in heaven together.

Gee, I wonder why she suffered depression and had problems with alcohol?

Christine tried to force herself to live a straight lifestyle, but had a awakening when she saw Peterson Toscano perform his show "Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House," where he talked about his ex-gay experiences. Toscano is the other co-founder of the "Beyond Ex-Gay" community.

This is an interesting story that is far from over, but the new chapter Christine is writing is heading in a much happier direction.

I'm proud that Christine's blog, Rising Up Whole, links back to Straight, Not Narrow. After reading the Glamour article, you might be interested in visiting her site and keeping up with her journey.

Visit The 10th Edition of the Interntional Carnival of Pozitives

As always, I'm pleased to point readers toward the latest edition of the International Carnival of Pozitives. In case you haven't heard of this before, the ICP was founded by Ron Hudson, an HIV positive man, "for people living with HIV/AIDS around the world. This includes every human being on the planet Earth.”

My wife Pastor Brenda has known a disturbing number of people durning her ministry work in the GLBT community that have lost their battle with AIDS. Ron has worked to put together a collection of stories that emphasize surviving, even thriving, with HIV.

I'm proud to say I'll be hosting an edition here at Straight, Not Narrow, probably this summer. I encourage you to take some time to check out edition #10.

April 10, 2007

GSA Clubs "A Haven From Hurt"

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

When a student in Cara Cerise's ceramics class at Salt Lake City's Highland High School told her he had a solution to the gay marriage issue, she was ready to listen.

"Just kill everyone who's gay," she remembers the classmate saying.

Shocked, Cara started to cry. The daughter of a gay man, the teenager knew she needed to find a safe haven at school where she would not be judged.

It was through the school's gay-straight alliance (GSA), now melded into Highland's social-justice club, that Cara found a home.

Despite this and stories like it that are described in detail within the article, the Utah state legislature recently voted to add restrictions like requiring parental permission for students to join school-affiliated clubs. It was generally understood that this was an effort to undermine the ability of GLBT students to participate in GSAs since they would have to tell their parents what club they were joining.

Hal Newman, an openly gay history teacher at Hunter High, believes the mere existence of a GSA has the power to change the way people think. "Just by being, we raise consciousness," he said.

Of course, that's what religious conservatives don't want.

Several students have told him that without the club, they would have contemplated suicide.

For some students, the adult suspicion of GSAs can be explained by the age gap between politicians and teenagers today. They're criticizing something that's totally unfamiliar.

"I just don't think they understand what the club is all about, because they didn't have that when they were in high school," said Cara, the Highland student. "Things have changed."

True enough, and they continue to change despite efforts of anti-gay activists to turn back the clocks and keep GLBT students cowering in their closets.

Other Sheep Seeks Donors to Sponsor LGBT Trip to Kenya

I received this from Steve Parelli, the Executive Director of the organization Other Sheep. Their mission statement is "Other Sheep is the only worldwide ecumenical Christian organization dedicated to empowering sexual minorities throughout the world with the Good News of God's unconditional love for all and salvation through God's Son, Jesus Christ."

Steve forwarded this press release regarding their upcoming trip to Nairobi, Kenya. Please consider supporting their efforts.

Emmanuel Kamau (known as "Aunty Ivy" throughout Africa) has invited Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz of Other Sheep to come to Nairobi, Kenya, this summer (July and August 2007) to conduct "safe space" groups that will focus on instruction and discussion on issues and interests pertaining to homosexuality.

Emmanuel Kamau is Founder (1997) and Director of Ishtar MSM (men who have sex with men), an organization that works among gay men for HIV and AIDS education and prevention. He has served on UN and state advisory councils and is an international speaker. He recently became interested in Other Sheep through contact with Other Sheep's New York City committee that works to distribute throughout Africa the book The Children Are Free: Reexaming the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships, co-authored by Rev. Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley.

Kamau, while visiting family in the United States, traveled to New York City in March of 2007 and for eleven days resided in the home of Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz during which time he met twice with the NYC Other Sheep committee to discuss and plan for Other Sheep's 2007 summer work in Nairobi with Ishtar MSM.

Steve Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep, and Jose Ortiz his partner of nine years and Other Sheep Coordinator for Africa, will conduct the Nairobi "safe space" groups. A curriculum will be used that will emphasize homosexuality as it relates to religion, society, family members, the social sciences and psychology, and human rights. Targeted participants will be the LGBT community, their parents and friends, and any interested party. Three different locations will be chosen in Nairobi for weekly meeting places in order to reach a wider range of people within the city. Each "safe place" class will run for four weeks. Kamau, Parelli and Ortiz will use the time between classes to meet and connect with individuals. It is hoped that a permanent pro-active group will grow out of these meetings and will continue to meet on a regular basis creating fellowship and addressing the areas of need particular to the group and the region.

Other Sheep is currently seeking donors to help with costs. Financial gifts can be sent to Other Sheep, c/o Gordon I. Herzog, Co-Chairperson, Board of Directors, 16768 Old Jamestown Rd. Florissant, MO 63034. Other Sheep is a 501 (c) (3) tax exempt organization. Donors will receive a receipt for their contributions. Questions can be directed to Steve Parelli at sparelli2002@yahoo.com.

Here's a direct link with more information about this project:

April 09, 2007

Tolerance Would Be a Start

I'm encouraged that columns like this seem to be appearing more often in the mainstream media. No new ground here, but I believe this piece in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is worth reading nonetheless for the way the writer, O. Ricardo Pimentel, approaches the subject:

Parents sued a Massachusetts school district after, in one case, class material that included a gay family came home and, in another case, after a teacher read from a book about two gay princes.

Given their resistance to having their children exposed to such notions, it's inescapable that what the suing parents are really saying is gays are bad. And because the parents cited their religion, that gays are against God's law. Which are all ways of saying, "You disgust me so much that I need to shelter my school-age children from even knowing you exist until I get a chance first to convince them that you are disordered."

Yes, this is the stuff tolerance is made of.

Or maybe they will, in what they perceive to be a burst of magnanimity, tell their children to hate the sin but love the sinner. The message in that for gays? Submit (change so that there are no more of you left); go away; just keep it to yourself (hide who you are and what you, yuck, do).

Yes, this is what people tell people they love.

This poppycock might be cloaked in the fine raiment of religious freedom or choice, but the folks who utter it are judging one group of people who, near as I and compelling research can tell, were made by the same God they believe in. In other words, not created by their social environments but by whatever occurs in that wondrous process when humans are created.

The courts ruled against the parents that brought suit, which of course resulted in charges of the court system furthering the infamous "homosexual agenda," which is what the right wing usually says when courts choose upholding the U. S. Constitution rather than their bigotry.

You've got to love a writer who uses the word "poppycock," but I wish Mr. Pimentel had not focused on the word "tolerance." Sure, that would be a major improvement over the attitudes he derides in his column, but is that the end goal we're seeking with the GLBT community? Should I walk up to the gay and lesbian members of my church next Sunday, hug them, and say, "I tolerate you." I know at least with a couple of them, I'd better plan on ducking if I pulled something like that.

Tolerance is an incremental step, much like civil unions are in the issue of same-sex marriage, but acceptance of GLBT people as full-fledged members of society needs to be the end result. A bad rash, you can tolerate. Traffic at rush hour, you can tolerate. Gay and lesbian people should be accepted.
Why? Because they're people and God made them.

Thanks to PageOneQ for the tip.

April 08, 2007

Hope: The Message of Easter

When I looked out at our congregation during this morning's church service as I prepared to read one of the scripture passages, I knew there were some people sitting there who desperately needed to hear the message of Easter--the message of hope.

I worship a God who came to earth in human form, allowed Himself to die a brutal death, then arose from the dead all to be the beacon of hope toward eternal life and eternal peace with Him once our time in the flesh was done.

He permitted His earthly body to be killed to show us what He was willing to endure for us, to show us how much He loved us. He then conquered death by rolling back the stone from his burial tomb and raising from the dead to show us how powerful faith in Him truly was.

I write this tonight, as I do most of my work here, to the GLBT community, especially those of you who have little or no hope of a better life awaiting you, either here on earth or in heaven. Part of that is probably because you've had it hammered in your head to where it saturates your psyche that you don't deserve God's love because you are a homosexual. You've probably been lectured to, possibly by your own family, how God hates gays and lesbians and the only path to heaven is to pray to Him to change your very nature.

That's God filtered through what they've been taught and/or their own prejudices. Unfortunately, that really tells you more about the person delivering that message than it does about God.

Apostle Dale, as he so often does, nailed it during his message this morning. He knows that people run across the Believers Covenant Fellowship website and see his smiling face on the home page. They know nothing about him, but sometimes they try to learn by asking others without making direct contact with him. It's tough to get a clear understanding of who someone is if you don't establish direct contact with them.

You see, that's what those who spread the message of hate toward homosexuals don't want GLBT people to do. They want gay and lesbian people to accept that God is as THEY say He is. Regardless of how authoratative they sound, how many years they may have spent in seminary, and how many verses of the Bible they quote to make their point, it is still THEIR point.

We all need to understand God by asking God who He is. We need to get into his word, the Bible, for ourselves. I regard the Bible as the roadmap to God, the pathway to understanding and receiving salvation and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Don't shake you head and say that He won't listen to you. Don't assume he won't communicate with you in some way. I know I don't hear his voice but I reach points of clarity and understanding when I seek him out. He will do the same for you. He wants to reach out and love you just as you are. I've seen first hand at my church when God has taken GLBT people from the depths of despair and given them love and hope.

Don't take my word for it. Seek God for yourself. If you don't know where to start, e-mail me at straight_notnarrow@yahoo.com or seek out Apostle Dale as bcfemail@aol.com. We can point you in the right direction, regardless of if you are straight, gay, lesbian, and no matter what type of sins you may have committed, so you can join us in walking with God.

Your peace and eternal happiness is not determined by any preacher, parent, spouse, family member, or friend. It's solely between you and God. He's reaching out for you right now. All you need to do is reach back.

God bless you on this Easter Sunday.