Visible Witness from the Intersection

a journey through the love of Christ reflecting the spectrum of gender and sexuality.

Seeing Ourselves as God Sees Us March 27, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 4:35 am
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I grew up on a dairy farm and spent much of my time hanging out with my dad in the fields and the barn.  I also got to go to the local farmer hangout – the Roundtop Diner.  The other farmers would tease all of us about girlfriends, but I already knew that my attraction was not towards Jill but to some of the younger farmer boys in town, in particular Ned and Lee.  I could not quite connect the dots, but I knew at seven that something was different about my hard wiring.

The church life of my community was very much a Hutchison thing.  Both my Mother and Father were very active in the church community, in fact the land the church was built on was donated by my parents.  Sunday School and Service on Sunday and dinner at Grandmas was a weekly guarantee.  My siblings and I were active young members of the United Methodist Church and it was a natural fit.  When I was 10 a piece of my childhood was stolen when my father died.  I had a powerful faith, even at that young age and  I quickly filled in the wide void by getting more deeply involved in my church and faith. 

Once in Sunday School class my teacher had us review some bible quotes.  One in particular stuck with me,   “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”  Hebrews 10:35.   I was never a shy one so I just built on my confidence and became one of the regular “kids” in town. Bike riding, trying to uncurl the pigs’ tails, challenging the rooster to a duel and just plain hanging out in the wonder of a very safe world.    No one ever made comments about gay people, I am not sure we even knew what the meaning of gay was.  To be sure a nagging feeling was always there.  Why did basketball captain Rodney Plowman hold such an attraction to me and not the Homecoming Queen Sharon Cowan?    Sharon even called me her best girlfriend once and I thought that was a pretty cool gesture on her part.   And let’s not forget about Ned and Lee, they were looking better and better as time passed.   This of course was all fantasy to me, and nothing ever happened, I was not even sure what I was suppose to do.   This was long before the web,  Will and Grace or Out magazine existed to guide a teenager.

Alas, that fantasy came to an end when I moved on to college and into the work world to discover that “fags” were bad people and worse yet I might be one of them.  I struggled major with this, dating, even getting married, thinking that it would all go away and I would be NORMAL. 

 After all Ward and June Cleaver had a great family life, why shouldn’t I?  However, it was not to be and I had to face the reality of who I was.  The first few years were not easy, having casual encounters, even falling in love with a married guy but they always ended in sadness.  Then I met Paul who was in a similar place to me, but we did not like one another at the start.  Over time we established common ground and he was determined to win me over, and the relationship flourished.  From there it progressed to outing myself to my friends and family.  Most of them said they already knew so I really had had nothing to fear.

31 years later I am proud to say, I am all grown up now, with a lifetime partner who shares many of the same values and interests that I do.  I have now come full circle back to a very safe world linked to a very strong faith.  Thanks be to God.

-David Hutchison

 

Letting Go of the Past March 26, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 4:02 am
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The internal and challenging struggles I faced as a teenager in trying to reconcile my inner feelings and the uncertainty with who I am with what was expected of me growing up in a conservative community on Long Island were great.

I was fortunate. I grew up in a loving home.  Mom made sure my brother and I went to Sunday school and confirmation class.  But there was the expectation that when I grew up I would get married to a woman and have children. And so through high school and into college I dated females, but it just didn’t feel right.

I had sensed for years that I was “different” but figuring it out took time.   It wasn’t until I met David that it clicked…  there were inner feelings that were bubbling up.  I had the internal conflicts of my upbringing; how was I going to let that go? 

Several months after meeting David, I confessed my feelings to him and that began what is now a relationship of more than 31 years.   

But what about letting go of the past and looking forward to the future? 

Slowly, the journey of letting going of the past began, first with coming out to some close friends and then eventually family.  There were some who didn’t understand or want to understand and accept me for who I am.  Unknowingly to me at that time, these people were the starting point of the process of letting go of the past.  Choices were made and my life moved on without them.   By this point I had become comfortable with who I am and no longer lived in the closet.

Volunteering with community activities has allowed me the opportunity to give my time and talents to the community.  It is my hope that through these activities I am setting an example for those who are struggling with their identity that it is okay to be gay.

– Paul Backstrom

 

Hope Along the Way March 25, 2010

It was the bold witness and work of the civil rights movement that inspired lesbian and gay people to move out of the shadows. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

I grew up with the civil rights movement. There seemed to be a staight path to equality – until Malcolm and Martin were killed.  In the early 1970’s, it seemed like recognition and equality were within reach.  But then the forces of fear gathered strength.  When Anita Bryant got gay teachers fired, I gave up the thought of becoming a teacher.  She got the gay rights ordinance repealed in Dade County, FL, and St. Paul, MN followed suit.  And then, in 1978, Harvey Milk was assassinated.

And now, over thirty years later, the arc is still bending, however slowly.  We look to the example of Mildred Loving, the black woman who won the battle to marry her white husband but said, “It wasn’t my doing.  It was God’s work.” Before her death in 2008, she had added her voice to the cause of full marriage equality.

Sometimes you have to step back to see the full curve of that arc if you don’t want to be discouraged by losses along the way.

-Eric Stenshoel

 

Teaching Teens about Sexuality – The Inclusive Way March 24, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 6:32 pm
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When I arrived 19 years ago at the all boy’s school where I work, the environment was very homophobic.   I have a cousin and a niece who are gay and I know the difficulties that they have faced in their lives because of their sexuality.  These circumstances and my family experience inspired me to pull together 25 teachers for a year-long initiative to consider what it meant to be homosexual from a number of different perspectives.  We spoke with parents of gay children, with gay teens, with advocates of gay teens.  The head of the gay and lesbian center at Columbia University was our mentor during this year.
When we finished, we made a plan for how we would proceed to rid our school of homophobia.  Looking back, it wasn’t hard, but it took dedication and the will to continue the work, year after year.
Since that first year, our curriculum has entirely changed to reflect sexual diversity.  In kindergarten, we introduce different kinds of families to the children. In science, we explore the origins of sexual orientation.  Our students read and discuss literature by gay authors, to understand the perspective of that person’s work.
This year, in my ninth-grade class, the boys asked, “why do you keep talking with us about sexual orientation?”  I shared with them a bit of the history of the school, when it wasn’t safe to be out and gay at our school, and how it took so much intentional work to arrive where we are today with a gay-straight alliance.  I explained that I never wanted to see us go back to where we were.
I believe we always need to be talking about these issues.

-Kathy Young

 

The Struggle to Live in Truth and Faith March 23, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 3:02 am
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We all work to examine ourselves: who we are, what we do, and where we are going.  In my process of self-examination, I look for help from friends, therapy, meditation and prayer. I know that the answers are not easy nor are they always definitive.

It is not easy to question ourselves.

To recognize and to acknowledge that I am gay was not easy. But it is not easy to be a Christian, either. It is not easy to break with the teachings of my past, or those things that are blocking me and even distracting me, making me feel as if I cannot receive the infinite love and kindness of God.

And so I struggle to be optimistic, persistent, and humble. I struggle to believe in a promising future. I must remember to trust God, and to continue in the work to find peace with myself and with my neighbor. I call upon God to continue to refine me.  I ask for help knowing that I cannot do it alone. I pray with the strength God has implanted within me to reinforce my faith that I may live in the example of Christ.

My goal is to know that I did everything that I could in this lifetime to follow Christ’s example, that I will have fulfilled my promises and duties as a Christian, that I will have lived always with full confidence in God.

I suppose that we all have “closets” or secrets. In my own search for truth, I am clinging to my faith in God.  I pray that this will bring me peace and a more joyful life.

-Walter Perez

 

Sharing Gifts March 22, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 4:29 am
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Giving away our talents and sharing gifts given to us has been the rule in my family. I had been encouraged to be creative, blaze any trail that went in a positive direction, and stand up straight and smile.

At the age of 13, and as a new resident of the Midwest, I was excited to discover that my new church had a handbell choir for kids. I enthusiastically joined as the only boy in a group of girls; I loved it!  While in high school, I taught Sunday school to 5-year-olds and continued pursuing art, music, drama.  I was also part of a puppet troupe that told bible stories to kids in the surrounding Lutheran grade schools. My family and key teachers challenged me and supported all my ideas. Although considered “women’s work” by some, I learned to ignore teasing and negative comments about doing the things I love, the things that I could contribute.

Imagine my confusion, then, when as a young adult I discovered “whom God planned for me to date and eventually fall in love with.”  Although I always had the best female friends, it was with other guys that I found romantic happiness. There was no support on this path, and the response I received was negative. Giving of myself in this way was not allowed, and dating no one was better than having a relationship with a man.

I learned again to smile and to stand up straight, and strive to keep giving.

To use the words of Oscar Wilde:

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.

-Kristian Kraai

 

We Are a Work in Progress March 21, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 4:05 am
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Sex is often a word that gets us in trouble.  Yet most adults would proclaim the joys of sex.  But is sexuality eternal?

Unfortunately, probably not.  Jesus may have answered this question when he responds to some Sadducees who ask him to whom a widow is married in the resurrection if she marries each of seven brothers after each brother dies.  Jesus answers, “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven” [Matthew 22: 30].   In the resurrection we may realize our eternal nature and cast off our sexual attributes.

My guess is that as eternal souls we are not sexual beings.  Being straight or gay is not part of our eternal being.  God creates us to live eternally.  We are a work in progress.  Our sexuality helps us to live in this world.  Being bisexual, gay, lesbian, straight, or transgendered helps us to get to know one another as human beings.  Being sexual is a temporary gift from God.  Let us enjoy it while we can.

Many folks don’t realize that being gay can actually give some definite blessings.  Being gay, lesbian, or transgendered encourages a person to look behind the human façade which many of us present to others.  Gays may be looking to find out if they are accepted.  This search may lead us to look at what is behind a smiling face.  Do we see suffering under what appears to be beauty?  Or do we see spiritual beauty behind what is a terrible physical disease?  I know of many straight folks who look behind our human masks too.  Seeking the human truth within ourselves and others may help us to see life through both the eyes of the younger brother or the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. Hopefully someday we will all come to realize that we are all blessed to be human and that our Father loves us all equally.

-Tom Dorsey