- Still working at Lord & Taylor, though I’m a Specialist now for Kenneth Cole New York.
- Member of Green Party of Monroe County Steering Committee, and working on Alex White for Mayor campaign, we can win this!
- Organizing Interfaith Advocates for LGBT People to become more active, reaching out to local faith communities regardless of theological positions
- Buddhist/Christian contemplation and meditation, reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching
- Living and hanging out at Ant Hill Cooperative, community living is the way to go!
- Take the bus everywhere, isn’t it nice when low-income status forces action on something I should have been doing already?
- Singing and laughing as part of the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus
- Going to Albany next week as part of Marriage Equality New York’s lobby day
- Finding paradise amongst the suffering
- Attending worship at Rochester Area Mennonite Fellowship when I can, why do I have to work on Sunday?
- Crossing my fingers that I don’t burn myself out
So I know many people have been anxiously waiting to hear from me about what has been happening as I travel for justice. There’s just been so much going on that I haven’t been able to write down my thoughts about everything that’s happening.
Baltimore, Feb. 25th-Mar.3rd
The train took me from Syracuse to New York City and then on to Baltimore, with me being one of the last arrivals Thursday evening. And because doing absolutely nothing all day is most draining of activities I had to go to sleep immediately. Can’t start this wonderful 2 month journey with a sleep deficit can I? Lots happened over that week, but the one thing that I wanted to describe was an exercise that Mel White did with us. As part of our nonviolence exercises we were required to step into the shoes of the most hateful extremist and then interact with another of the Riders in that role. We were required to spew all of those things that we’ve heard in the past at our friends. We got in each others faces. We made each other cry. We made ourselves cry. I actually found it to be more difficult to vocalize that hatred, than it was to take it. Essentially, we’ve grown accustomed to hearing these things, but how can anybody ever spew such hateful things at another human being? If they think that this is Love, then I must conclude that they have never known the touch of Love in their lives. And that is something to mourn.
Valley Forge Christian College, Mar.4th-Mar.7th
VFCC is an Assemblies of God institution near Philadelphia and was our first campus stop on the Ride this year. And what a way to start out. The administration from the very beginning of hearing that we would be visiting insisted that we not show up. They were not interested in having any sort of discussion, and they were insistent that their students not have any discussions with us. Because of the threat of expulsion from the school simply based on talking with us, we unfortunately did not have any face to face conversations with current students. But we could see that students were watching from the buildings and as we left for the day we could see them waving to us. Even if we were not able to talk directly to students, we know that somebody that needed to hear us did so, and hopefully that spark that we created will contribute to the fanning of the flames of this conversation for this community. While we held vigil outside this campus, we also spent the day trying to deal with a group called Repent America. Similar to Westboro Baptist Church, this group travels to many queer related happenings in Pennsylvania and uses their bullhorns and signs to proclaim their hate message. When the members of our group attempted to engage in conversation with them and offered their hands, the response was a refusal to shake and a complete twisting of our words.
Fortunately, our entire time in Philadelphia was not spent around such hostility. Members of the local Metropolitan Community Churches joined us at the College, and then welcomed us into their churches. They fed us, talked with us, and filled up our love tanks, knowing that our experiences in this community would not be the only ones that were less than welcoming. We worshiped at Imago Dei MCC on Sunday morning, which was actually my first time worshiping in an MCC setting. And it was moving. Hearing the word of God from a such a queer perspective and participating in Communion with a primarily queer group was life-giving in a way that I have not experienced in quite some time. And while the MCC is not my home, I greatly appreciated their ministry to me while I was in their midst.
Houghton College, Mar.7th-Mar.10th
After leaving Philadelphia, we headed up to Houghton College in upstate New York, which is my home turf. This stop had the potential to be very triggering for me personally, as I was a student at Houghton for five semesters, a time that I spent deeply in the closet. While I was at Houghton, I struggled greatly with my sexuality, primarily because their was an enormous silence around the issue. Was there really anybody that I would be able to talk to about this secret of mine. Because of my history with the College, our conversations with the administration had been “interesting.” So having been in charge of planning everything my stress level was a bit high going into this visit. But regardless of my expectations for this visit, the reality of that day on campus far surpassed anything I could have imagined. Despite the limited interactions that we were given to have with students, the students came out in force, wanting to hear what we had to say, wanting to hear our stories. Houghton College is fertile ground. We had straight students coming out as allies, we had queer students identify themselves as such to various Riders. After hearing the statistic that 1 in 4 Houghton students “struggles with same-sex attraction” I personally wish that more of those students would have identified, but I know that each of us must go through that in their own time. And even if they haven’t publicly identified themselves yet, I know that our shattering of the silence on this campus has enabled them to move one step closer to living their lives as their authentic G0d-created selves. Whether it was coming out to themselves, coming out to a close friend, or coming out to a Rider, any of these movements is welcome to me, and the smallest shift to them accepting themselves makes the entire experience worth it.
We created a safe space while on the campus of Houghton College, and from the energy that I saw amongst the students there, I am confident that this safe space will remain. Some students have even started discussing the formation of a Queer-Straight Alliance, which would be an enormous step to making this campus safer and more inclusive. While none of us are fooling ourselves into thinking that this will be a college-recognized organization, we must accept the small ripples that we are making. We may never see the change that we want to see, but the only way to get to that point is to make the small changes, and someday somebody will be able to reap the full benefits of our actions. And as long as that happens someday, all the work is worth it.
Knoxville, Tenessee, Mar.11th-Mar.12th
After our time in New York, we made a LOONNGGG journey down to Knoxville, TN where we visited with several Unitarian Universalist churches that welcomed us and once again we had our love-tanks filled up. They fed us with delicious food as we sat and talked with them about the work that we’re doing, and sharing our life stories. After our brief stop we then left for Huntsville, Alabama where I sit writing this. Hopefully as the Ride progresses I’ll be more diligent on recording my experiences, so you’ll get updates much more often and in much more detail.
Come join us, the 2010 Soulforce Equality Ride, as we bring our message of justice to the Houghton area from March 7th-March 11th. Following is the schedule as it currently stands so that you and your friends can come and talk with us in the environment that is most comfortable to you. Please share this schedule with as many people as you are able. We can’t make friends with you all, if we never have the opportunity to interact!
March 7th, Arrive in Houghton Sunday evening
March 8th, 12:00pm-8:00pm
Belfast Municipal Building
11 Merton Ave, Belfast, NY
Come talk to us in a space of freedom and safety about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) concerns. We will also be presenting more formal workshops throughout the day.
3:00 – Myth‐conceptions:
What do you know about the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender/questioning/intersex/ally
(GLBTQIA) community? Do you know what all of those terms mean? What if the truths you’ve
always held about the GLBTQIA community were actually myths or misconceptions? We
will attempt to do the following:
‐ Provide explanations of gender, sexuality and sexual orientation
‐ Explore current myths & truths regarding sexual orientation and gender identity using an evidence‐based approach
‐ Discuss the types of discrimination GLBTQIA people face and how we can combat discrimination
‐ Have an open dialogue and answer any questions on the above mentioned subjects
4:30 – Christianity And Justice
An in‐depth look at the biblical call to justice. Participants will use the Bible to define justice and discuss the history of the Bible’s use in promoting equality. This presentation will also explore what the Bible tells us about homosexuality and examine what a biblical view of justice looks like in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity. This presentation also includes time for group discussion and questions. Topics covered include:
• Defining Justice
• The Bible and Justice: Historically and Presently
• A Discussion of the Bible, Homosexuality , and Justice
6:00 – Bridging
As Christians, we are called to be Christ‐like. Through the works and life of Jesus Christ, the
greatest ally of all time, we are taught to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But who are our neighbors? In this presentation, we will discuss what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender, and explore practical ways to love all our neighbors as Jesus would.
March 9th, 9:00am-7:00pm
11:15am-12:15pm, 1:00pm-3:00pm – Dieter Board Room, Center for the Arts
Time for open discussion with students, faculty, and staff who wish to talk with us about LGBTQ issues.
4:00pm-5:30pm – Wesley Chapel, College Sponsored Forum
Facilitated by Dr. Michael Lastoria; Dr. Richard Eckley of Houghton College, Kathy Elliot of Agape Counseling Associates of Rochester, NY, and Emily Zahn of the Soulforce Equality Ride, will discuss issues of faith and LGBTQ-folk.
March 10th, 6:00pm-9:00pm
Open Arms Metropolitan Community Church
740 Marshall Rd, Rochester, NY 14624
Come hear the stories of the Riders in this welcoming environment, as we sit down at the table together to enjoy a wholesome meal of food and friendship.
Any questions? email Andrew @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Kairos is a word from ancient Greece meaning time, specifically an opportune time or the perfect moment. It is that time where the Light bursts forth. It is that time where action is demanded of us in the human community. It is often used in a theological context in regards to the Incarnation of Yeshua, that God broke into Time at the right time, when the Jewish community was being oppressed by Rome. It is in this context that I see my participation in the Equality Ride. All events in my life, whether I have typically viewed them as positive or negative, have led me to this point. This Kairos moment in effect makes all of my history a positive. My suffering in the closet, my spiritual agony originating from a rejection of my self, are what give me this moment. And I know that just in time for our arrival at Houghton College, various queer students on campus have become comfortable enough with themselves that they publicly identify as queer. This also points towards a Kairos moment. And so as I am now on the road as part of the Ride, I am full of hope and courage. I am a conduit of God’s Justice in doing this work, and as I sit here in Baltimore preparing for the possible confrontations that come , I know that Change will come!
One of the common assertions made by the college communities that we go into is that we are a bunch of outsiders trying to rile everybody up, and that it is our goal to create a media circus. They try to promote the idea that everybody in their community agrees with their positions on sexuality and gender. From reports that I hear from Houghton, these assertions are most definitely flowing around that campus. I challenge all students, faculty, staff, alumni of the College to challenge this fiction being promoted as fact. Let the College know that you disapprove of their policies. Let them know that you support and endorse the actions of the Equality Ride. Maybe instead of contributing financially to the College this year, redirect your donation to the Equality Ride, and let the College know it. Or just make a donation to the Equality Ride. We must show that they are not solid, that there is dissent and that someday they must change.
Because of my super wonderful connections to the community here in Rochester, I have been given the chance to promote the Ride through The Empty Closet, a monthly newspaper published by the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley. In February’s issue, I have a brief article about the Ride and our schedule, and in successive months I will be writing about my experiences at Houghton and the rest of the schools that we will be visiting. Welcome to those who are visiting this site because of the EC. And for those who haven’t picked up an issue, do so. This is a truly life-changing experience for me even now as I plan and interact with my fellow Riders and college administrators. And I want to share this with the world.
As we plan our trip over the next few months, we want to make sure that we make as many community connections as possible, so that our work may continue after we are gone. So if you know anybody near to the following campuses, let me know by emailing me at email@example.com
Mar.5–Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA
Mar.9–Houghton College, Houghton, NY
Mar.15–Oakwood University, Hunsville, AL
Mar.17–Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC
Mar.18–Campbell University, Bules Creek, NC
Mar.22–Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona Beach, FL
Mar.25–Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA
Mar.29–Belhaven College, Jackson, MS
Mar.30–Mississippi College, Clinton, MS
Apr.6–Baylor University, Waco, TX
Apr.8–Hardin Simmons University, Abilene, TX
Apr.9–Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX
Apr.14–Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, MO
Apr.16–Union College, Lincoln, NE
Apr.21–Bethel College, Mishawaka, IN
Apr.23–Malone University, Canton, OH