July 28, 2007

So That's What It Feels Like

I had my first direct, mild, brush with bigotry tonight, and it happened at my home.

I was sitting in our family room with Pastor Brenda and happened to see an unfamiliar man walk up our driveway. He was walking his dog and had something in his hand that he was taking to the neighbor's recycle bin. I recognized the item as the sign we've been displaying in our yard for several weeks from Equality Maryland that says, "Civil Marriage is a Civil Right." There is also a website supporting that campaign.

I shot out of the house and confronted the elderly man who had apparently walked past our yard, picked up the sign, and deposited it in the trash. He said, noteably without making eye contact with me, that the sign was "littering up the neighborhood."

I told him "No it isn't, it is expressing an opinion. You had no right to throw it away." Rather than taking an opportunity to engage in dialogue, forget the apology he owed me, he slinked away to his home further down the street.

It's easy to be a bigot when no one is watching, isn't it? Not quite as easy when someone calls you on it. It's pretty hard to respect someone like that too.

"Why Come Out?"

That's the question asked by Alex Blaze at The Bilerico Project. He has the data to indicate it's not so you can get ahead in the world:

Considering that, when adjusted for occupation and several other factors, the Task Force found that gay men make about 83% what the average straight man does, I really can't blame someone for being closeted. This UCLA study found that same-sex couples of either sex made about $12,000 less than their straight counterparts and were about 23% less likely to have a college degree. In fact, GLSEN found that LGBT-identified high school students were about twice as likely to not have any sort of post-secondary education on the mind.

And that's just when it comes to economic success. Queer-identified people are still more likely to be victims of violence, more likely to to be turned away from homeless shelters, more likely to be ostracized from their families. For what? A label?

How often have you heard people talk about how gay couples are always so affluent? Surely some are, but according to those statistics they have a lesser chance of being so than a straight couple.

So we're back at the main question of "Why come out?" It seems to be inviting a whole lot of trouble for not so much return. Of course, there are other ways to measure that return in terms of ethics and honesty, comfortability with one's identity, and slightly more psychic coherence, but those material disadvantages to coming out can be quite strong.

Well, I'm not planning on jumping back in the closet at this age, even though the system punishes people who are out and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Are the material and economic benefits of staying in the closet worth it? It would be easy for me to say no because I don't have to face that decision myself. I do feel strongly, however, that someone living a lie, regardless of what that lie is, is doing more damage to themselves in the long run than all of society put together can inflict upon them.

Denying any of the gifts God gave you, even if one of them is being gay, will leave you short of realizing His plan for your life. Even if the road He lays out has a lot of potholes in it, He promised us it is still the best path to take for our lives.

July 27, 2007

"'Trans'-forming Corporate America

In another example of business stepping far ahead of legislators in the acceptance of LGBT people, Fortune magazine posted an article about the T; how companies are becoming more progressive in handling employment situations with transgender people.

A 2007 "State of the Workplace" report just published by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) says that 125 of the Fortune 500 companies now specifically prohibit job discrimination against transgender employees. Five years ago, only 15 of the Fortune 500 promised to protect transgender people from on-the-job bias.

Just in the last 18 months, defense contractors Honeywell, Boeing (Charts, Fortune 500) and Northrop Grumman (Charts, Fortune 500), automakers Ford and General Motors (Charts, Fortune 500), hotel firms Hilton (Charts, Fortune 500), Starwood and Marriott (Charts, Fortune 500) and Internet giants Yahoo and Google (Charts, Fortune 500) have added protections for transgender workers. About 70 big companies offer comprehensive medical coverage for transgender employees, including those in transition, according to the HRC.

Why the change?

"This is a direct result of the organizing that employees have done on the issue of sexual orientation," says Daryl Herrschaft, who oversees the HRC's workplace project. As gay and lesbian employees form internal networking and lobbying groups, they have been able to persuade their employers to protect transgender rights as well.

Broader social forces are also at work. Movies like "Boys Don't Cry" (1999) and "Transmerica" (2005) exposed transgender characters to audiences. Last spring, Newsweek published a cover story called "The Mystery of Gender," and an L.A. Times sportswriter named Mike Penner told his readers that he would take a vacation and return as a woman, Christine Daniels.

I've written this before regarding corporations establishing policies aimed at preventing discrimination toward gay and lesbian employees, but the point is worth repeating: as a rule businesses are not going to take measures that are not in their best interest.

My experience has taught me that good employees are hard to find, so it is worth maintaining positive relationships with them, even if they used to wear a coat and tie and now wear a dress. More and more companies are seeing the value of doing just that.

Will Lutherans Abolish Celibacy Requirement for Gay & Lesbian Clergy?

From the Chicago Sun-Times via Religion Headlines.

The Lutheran pastor soon to be bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod wants his denomination to lift a celibacy requirement for gay and lesbian clergy.

"That's where I think the church is going," Bishop-elect Wayne Miller of Aurora said. "That's where I think it needs to go."

Eventually, gay and lesbian clergy in monogamous, same-sex relationships could be allowed to serve.

He's hoping the change will come next month in Chicago, where the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is conducting its churchwide assembly. Nearly a third of the denomination's 65 synods are asking for a policy shift in clergy standards.

John Roberts of Chicago also hopes it could lead to the reinstatement of gay clergy removed from ministry. He says he was ousted as pastor of a Michigan church in the 1990s after he confided to his bishop that he was gay.

"He gave me 11 days to leave the parish and not tell anyone," the 58-year-old Roberts said. "I still feel that call to pastoral ministry."

With 4.8 million baptized members, the ELCA, with headquarters in Chicago, is the nation's seventh-largest denomination. The Metropolitan Chicago Synod includes 217 congregations in Cook, DuPage, Kane and Lake counties.

Even with this restrictive policy, the Lutheran church is ahead of most mainline denominations. Hopefully they will continue to be led forward by people like John Roberts.

Click here to read the entire article, including a capsule summary of where the major denominations stand on ordaining gays and lesbians.

July 26, 2007

Baptists Try For Unity Without Pro Gay Groups

From the Christian Post:

Two pro-gay national Baptist organizations have been denied official participation in an upcoming milestone gathering focused on Baptist unity.

The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB) and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, both of which openly affirm gays and lesbians in the life of the national bodies, were told they cannot participate as an organization in the "Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant" in January 2008. Members of the two bodies, however, can participate as individuals.

The New Baptist Covenant is an effort spearheaded by former president Jimmy Carter and Bill Underwood, president of Mercer University in Atlanta, to counter the "negative" Baptist image presented in the media and to demonstrate Baptist unity around social causes such as poverty and AIDS as well as evangelism. Carter has expressed concern that the most common opinion about Baptist is that they cannot get along.

Ken Pennings, executive director of the AWAB, argued, "Here we are at a critical juncture when Baptists of all stripes are coming together to take a strong stand for justice for all of God's children, and the very people in American society being scapegoated and marginalized the most … are not going to be invited to participate.”

The AWAB and the Baptist Peace Fellowship had applied for membership in the North American Baptist Fellowship and asked to be included as sponsors of the upcoming pan-Baptist gathering, according to Stanford. The NABF executive committee denied their membership which excludes them from being official sponsors of the new covenant.

“This really is more like the Old Covenant than the New Covenant,” Pennings said, according to ABP. “Why would we want to participate in this? There’s nothing new about this; it’s the same old exclusion.”

A popular misconception here is that all baptists fall under the heading of Sothern Baptists (who are not participating in this effort either). Sadly, the group that is excluding the pro-gay organizations are considered to be less conservative than the SBC (most things are), yet is still not open to considering acceptance of GLBT people.

You can't have true unity and exclude a group at the same time, that's just common sense and an understanding of what the word unity means. What a shame.

Here is the entire article from the Christian Post.

July 23, 2007

Thanks for your support!

I sincerely and deeply appreciate all of the loving, caring messages you folks have left regarding the recent passing of my brother. From good friends like Sharone & Erica to those of you who I have never met, all your prayers, well wishes, and support are cherrished.

My brother's memorial service will be Tuesday, and I will return home Wednesday. I should be back blogging on a regular basis by Thursday night. I would love your continued support and prayers, especially for Mike who has to adjust being without the person he shared his life with for nearly eleven years.