11 October, 2008

Today is National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day. It is also my eldest daughter's 25th birthday. 25 years. A quarter century. In the wake of the death of my mother and grandmother, I realize how very proud I am of the woman she has become. She's had her ups and downs, her challenges and her triumphs. She gave birth to two of the most special grandchildren in existence. I see my own hurdles and celebrations when I hear her get impassioned about the latest issue.

Perhaps because of this sense of nostalgia, I reflect on the last 25 years in the gay rights movement. 25 years ago, Cleve Jones (whose birthday is also today), began the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and a few years later began the NAMES Project Memorial Quilt. 25 years ago Cleve stepped up and stood in his truth about who he was to respond to an epidemic that no one was paying attention to. He embodied, like so many others, what it means to be out, living in authenticity. He said, "If AIDS had taught us anything, it was that we must be true to ourselves if we are to survive."

Our community was experiencing genocide and public health officials and politicians, immersed in their own form of bigotry and homophobia, stalled in their response. And people like Cleve, stood up, organized and wrapped their arms around a community overwhelmed by death and grief. Cleve understood back then, the importance of claiming your power.

Matthew Shepherd was murdered 10 years ago this week and earlier this year, Lawrence King was murdered in California for being who they were created to be. Their deaths are symbols for all those who are victims of hate crimes, who die by suicide or who die from the inside out in their closets.

Sure, National Coming Out Day is a day to celebrate the gifts and achievements of our community. It is a day to look back and acknowledge how much we have been through. But is also a call to come out as people of faith. A call to listen, to be present, to affirm and understand.

In the coming days, when we meet each other on the street, let us pause and remember. Let us pause and connect. Let us affirm for one another what a gift we really are.

Blessed Be.

Rev. Tara

08 October, 2008

Challenging Ourselves

In Sunday's Oregonian, an editorial caught my eye. Becky Ohlsen wrote, "Portland, Get Over Yourself: Wrapped in self-satisfaction, city snoozes on the issues". The article begins:

"Every few years, in lefty mags like the Utne Reader, someone declares yet again that Portland is a bastion of "livability," a wonder of civic planning and a model of progressive politics. And, to some degree, it is all of those things. But when you've lived there for a while and then left, as I have, you start to wonder if Portland isn't more like one of those willfully anachronistic Amish or Mennonite communities: idyllic but isolated, utopian but irrelevant.

With few exceptions, Portlanders inhabit perfect liberal values. They recycle with a vengeance. They're into slow food. They shop at organic grocers and farmers markets, or they grow their own vegetables in a community garden. They don't think it's rude to ask the waiter if the salmon on the menu is farm-raised or wild; if it's farmed, the diner will opt instead for the salad of locally grown beets and wild greens picked in the meadows of nearby Mount Hood. Being vegan is cool, not annoying. Portlanders drink organic beer and wine (except for the dregs of the demimonde, who insist on Pabst Blue Ribbon and are mocked for it). They bicycle to work, and they frown at cars as they pedal by. Those who must drive are forgiven if they own a Prius or if their vehicle flaunts a BIODIESEL sticker across the back. Public transport works well here, and people use it. Gay rights and racial equality are taken for granted as goals, if perhaps not yet total achievements. Everyone does yoga; serenity is a family value.

So what's the problem? Isn't this a virtuous and exemplary way to live?..." For the full article, see: http://tinyurl.com/4fyb24

What struck me about her main assertion was that even progressives must do their inner work to stay relevant. It reminds me of a common dynamic in the welcoming church movement. Many "progressive" congregations and denominations fall into the trap of "we did that", "we took that vote years ago" or "my tradition has been a leader on LGBTQ issues". While those specific things are often true, many times congregations don't move beyond that point. CWC offers a workshop called, "So we are Open & Affirming, now what?" for just that purpose.

Letters have been coming in to the Oregonian by people stating that her opinion doesn't represent their view of Oregon. And I think the author was trying to motivate and encourage people to get engaged and not to just say, "we did that". And regardless of how we feel about Portlanders and their seeming (or not) self-centeredness....I think there is a kernel of truth that communities in the "welcoming church movement" might do well to consider. We all can do more in terms of expanding our own individual ideas on inclusion and equality. We can do more individually...and as communities. We must not rest on our laurels and say....oh yeah...that inclusive stuff, we did that.

Does the article strike you that way too? I'd like to know.

Peace and joy,

Rev. Tara