October 24, 2008

We Don't Have to Understand

When I first became actively involved in the LGBT community nearly four years ago, I knew there was a lot about them and their issues I did not understand. Thanks to my making the effort to observe and ask LOTS of questions and the time and compassion of others to thoughtlyfully and sincerely answer them, I understand much more than I did then.

One important concept I have also learned is that I don't HAVE to understanding everything that is going on with someone to love them and accept them fast who they are. The story of Los Angeles Times sportswriter Mike Penner is one of those situations.

I covered this story when it first went public early last year--Penner was transitioning into Christine Daniels, who was still going to cover sports for the Times and additionally blogging about the transition process.

According to this post on the Trans Group Blog (hat tip to PageOneQ), the blog has been taken down because Christine has decided to reverse the process (which was still far from complete) and has returned to work and live as Mike.

The news has been a bit of a shock to the transgender communities, even if Penner is far from the first person to de-transition. It's left me feeling a variety of things -- mostly sorrow. I'm sorrowful that I'm sure Penner's de-transition will be misused by Christianist fundies to argue in favor of discriminating against trans people. But mostly I'm sorrowful for Penner. In interviews and her blog posts, Daniels seemed so happy and full of hope -- maybe a little naively -- about her future. Whatever has transpired over the past 18 months, Penner must have become pretty miserable to have reached the point of deciding to go back, and even if he has no regrets about doing so, I'm sure he's still hurting at the moment.

If deciding to transition is one of the hardest decisions someone makes in their life, deciding to de-transition is arguably even harder. But the point of "real life experience" as it's known is precisely to find out whether living as a different gender is something you want to to do for the rest of your life. Sometimes you only figure things out by trying them. People make life-altering decisions in all sorts of ways. People get married, get divorced, take jobs and quit them, they move cross-country. Sometimes it's a bad decision, sometimes it's a bad decision that others can see but the person involved can't, sometimes it's what seemed like a good idea at the time, sometimes it's was a good decision that had unexpected consequences.

Why do people de-transition? Sometimes male-to-female transitioners can have unrealistic expectations about what life is going to be like as a woman, the sexism they have to live with -- in addition to the homophobia they can also encounter if their attraction to women means they go from being seen as straight men to being seen as lesbians. Needless to say the sports world probably wasn't friendliest place for MTF transitioner. Sometimes trans men discovered that while becoming men bring privilege it also brings burdens they'd never imagined. Likewise, they can under-estimate the hostility they encounter from some lesbians who angrily denounce them for switching teams. Likewise, sometimes people get stuck in being seen as trans woman not women (or trans men, not men). All of which can be too painful to handle. After all the point of transitioning is usually to make life easier, not more difficult.

Honestly, I don't get it.

The good news is, I don't have to, and neither do you. I hope Lena, the writer of this post, is wrong with her expectation of right-wing fundamentalists using this as propaganda against other transgenders, but I suspect she is right on.

That is not acting with the heart of Christ.

When Jesus told us several times to "love our brother as ourselves" He didn't add qualifiers like "if he is just like you" or "if he shares the same faith you do" or if you understand his sexuality.

We are simply supposed to love. I've never met Mike Penner, but I freely offer him the love of Christ because Jesus instructed us to do so. If you don't get that, let me know and I can help you understand what having the heart of Christ is truly all about.

October 22, 2008

What Are We Telling the Children?

Right-wing opponents of same-sex marriage, and other steps toward LGBT equality for that matter, often use their children as props--"We must protect our children" from the various sins that they perceive would be the result of legalizing these basic rights.

What are they REALLY telling their children?

This thoughtful column was written by a Los Aneles Times reporter who attended a "Project Marriage" rally that was beamed to 170 churches last Sunday night: (hat tip to PageOneQ)

This is more than a California ballot measure; it's part of a larger battle over rights, religion and culture.

And both sides understand the importance of public perception. That's why the first gay couples to publicly wed four years ago were non-threatening grandmotherly types. And why the battle to keep gays from marrying uses children as its standard bearer.

I could sense the emotional wrestling in the congregation Sunday night. I've felt it in conversations with friends and neighbors -- good-hearted folks, uncomfortable lining up behind such a restrictive measure but unwilling to sanction a cultural shift in the notion of marriage.

"I feel bad saying it, but it's just the way I was raised," one woman told me when I tried to interview her at Sunday's rally. "I don't want my children thinking gay marriage is normal. Because it goes against the Bible."

She feels strongly, she said. But she passed on the chance to take a yard sign or a flier. And she wouldn't give me her name. "I don't want anyone thinking I'm a bigot," she explained.

The reporter in me wanted to prod. What, exactly, is she trying to protect her children from? Being recruited by the "homosexual lobby"? Learning tolerance for alternative lifestyles? Rejection of their parents' values?

But the mother in me had a different thought, as I watched mothers cradling babies in the pews, and grade-schoolers scrambling around the church lobby.

I imagine that some of those little girls will grow up and make families with women, and some sons will fall in love with men.

I wonder what message are we really sending them now? And what will their parents tell them then?

Polls show that Proposition 8 is currently on track to passing, which would overrule recent the California Supreme Court ruling and post the discriminatory prohibition of same-sex marriage into the state's constitution.

Are Californian's really so insecure in their marriages that they feel threatend by the opportunity for same-sex couples to tie the know legally? Are they so blinded by right-wing rhetoric and blind adherance to tradition that they would allow this to happen? Is there such a widespread misunderstanding of the love of Christ that this hate and fear driven initiative would actually receive enough votes to pass?

Please join me in praying that it doesn't.....for the children's sake.

October 21, 2008

We're Back

When I posted on August 17 that Straight, Not Narrow was going on hiatus, I really did not expect to be picking up the mantle again, especially so soon, but apparently I just needed a break, not a long term separation from this blog.

I appreciate Sharone's contributions, which will continue. I also welcome other voices who want to join the discussion we have here. If you want to contribute a GLBT affirming post that is compatible with a Christian progressive viewpoint, I'd love to hear from you.

You probably won't see as many posts as we had before the hiatus, but I hope the quality will compensate. I had gotten away from much original writing here, and that's something I plan on changing going forward.

We'll be adding a couple of new features soon and continue to bring you news items concerning the fight for LGBT equality in society and the church.

Human Rights Should NOT Be Granted By the Whim of the Majority

If my legal rights to marry, adopt children and avoid discrimination at work were subject to a vote (the infamous "will of the people") every so often, I would be confident that they would be upheld because, as a straight man, those rights are agreed upon by a clear majority of the people. Even then, however, I would have to wonder what kind of justice is really being done if my basic rights were subject to a referendum.

I believe the answer is that it would not be true justice. Just look at when Jesus was crucified. Pontius Pilate, trying to wash his hands of making any decision, asked the mob outside which prisoner he should release, Jesus or Barabbas, a convicted murderer. The overwhelming majority of the crowd wanted Jesus crucified allowng Barabbas to go free.

Fortunately, that story had a happy ending DESPITE the will of the majority. LGBT people in most parts of the United States are not that fortunate, having to constantly fight for rights people like me take for granted. Those who oppose equality often cite "the will of the people." Even victories for equality are constantly challenged by right-wing zealots who just won't give up.

Unfortunately, the majority usually votes in its perceived self interest, which often includes insuring minorities don't enjoy the same legal rights or social status. Judges who see these miscarriages of justice and have the nerve to rule accordingly are scorned and labeled "activist judges" who "legislate from the bench."

Brenda and I strongly support full and completely equal rights for same-sex couples and oppose any and all efforts to codify discrimination in state constitutions.

Here is a piece written by Lisa Neff on 365gay.com who shares her frustration in watching basic human rights put up for a vote.

A search for progressive issues on ballots finds too few across the country — and the interests seem more with protecting domestic animals than people. There is a real possibility that in California, the vote will be to ban gays and lesbians from marrying and another vote will require a more humane treatment of pregnant pigs, calves and hens by mandating a minimum living space.

Please, don’t get me wrong — I support the animal rights matter, known as Proposition 2. I just wish I could count on more support for humane treatment of people.