The Wayfarer's Creed

Archive for the ‘gender’ Category

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.

PeaceLove&Rainbows

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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.

The announcement has been made by Sharra Hynes, the VP of Student Life, to the Houghton College campus that we, the Equality Ride, will be visiting on March 9th. (I seem to be getting some hits from the college community, Welcome!)  In her announcement she writes that, “We want Houghton College to be a place where all people, regardless of sexual orientation, are treated with love, respect, and dignity, and where all sides of an issue may be studied and discussed in a safe learning environment.”  Doesn’t that sound nice?  Unfortunately, the reality is that this is not the reality.  As a presumably straight woman she cannot understand how we as queer-folk feel when we read the Community Covenant.  It states, “We believe that Scripture clearly prohibits certain acts, including drinking alcohol to excess, stealing, speaking or writing profanely or slanderously, acting dishonestly, cheating, engaging in occult practice, and engaging in sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage (including premarital sex, adultery and homosexual behavior).”  Seriously?  My sexual orientation is akin to occult practice or adultery?  When you call our loving relationships sin, we are not being treated with the “love, respect, and dignity” that you claim is the goal of the College.  That is why we as the Equality Ride must come onto your campus.

Because of this clear lack of understanding on the part of the college, it is very difficult for queer people in their community to get the love and respect that they need.  I never felt that I was able to open about who I was, and statistically there are many more who dare not speak.  That’s why I set up a network, Queer Houghton, a few months ago to bring in queer students and alumni as well as our straight allies.  Hopefully, this can be the beginning of a safe space in the Houghton community.  A place where the entire rainbow of God’s creation can be loved and accepted.  A place where they are no longer told that their desire for intimacy can only result in sin and destruction.  That day and place is coming, and I am so glad to be a part of it.

Peace & Rainbows 🙂

I have been doing lots of thinking over the last few days after coming home on Wednesday after a week of training in Texas.  And I was going to start writing on some of my reflections today.  But then I started engaging in conversation with some co-congregants of my church about the Ride and realized that not everybody has the same vocabulary that I have.  Mainstream society understands what gay and lesbian mean, but what about the other letters in the acronym?  It might be necessary to go over same basic terminology, or as we sometimes call it, the alphabet soup of the movement.  So here we go as I stumble through my own limited knowledge.  Also, language is always changing and it means different things to different people, so one definition may not jive with everybody that you come in contact with.

Queer — While this word has been used in a pejorative sense, one may hear it used as a general catch-all term for the LGBTQI… movement, or as a more general non-boxing identity by anybody that may or may not fit into one of the common categories, we sometimes hear of the gay rights movement or gay pride, I would prefer queer rights, etc. as an effort to include everybody,  usage of this word may also be a generational issue as its pejorative sense is used less, younger queer-folk are more apt to use the word than our elders

Genderqueer — individual who possesses identity outside society’s gender/sexual binaries

Third-gender — a gender in addition to that of male and female, societies world-wide have accepted third-genders such as the hijras of India (I goofed, see nome’s comment)

Transgender — Simply put transgender means that a person’s birth assigned gender, or sex, does not match their personal gender identity/expression, those who operate outside of society’s norms

Cisgender — Cisgender-folk are the people of privilege in the gender identity/expression identity field

Ze — gender-neutral/third-gender/genderqueer third person singular pronoun, akin to s/he, “Ze went shopping at the food co-op yesterday.”  I have been attempting to adopt these pronouns in reference to God.

Zir/Hir – gender-neutral/third-gender/genderqueer third person possessive pronoun akin to his/her, “Ze went to zir parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner.”

Intersex — individuals whose biology/genitalia does not fit into the rigid categories of male or female

Pansexual — sexual orientation of those attracted to all genders/biological make-ups, differs from bisexuality in that it operates outside of the gender binary

Heterosexism — system that elevates heterosexuality above other sexual orientations

Cisgenderism — system that elevates cisgender identity above transgender/genderqueer identities

If you feel I haven’t done a term justice feel free to comment and correct.  And never be afraid to ask about a term, what it means, or if is acceptable to use.  Language is fluid and we must always learn new ways to speak of our experience in the world.

Shalom my dearest Friends,

Most of you have heard me rambling about the Equality Ride for the last few months, and now with the beginning of my training in Austin, Tejas, this week you can be sure to hear about it even more. While the weather down here isn’t quite as warm as I expected, the awesome people that have come into my life have more than made up for that. We all come from many different places but come to common ground forming a beautiful rainbow of humanity.

Today has been jampacked with all sorts of stuff that while overwhelming at times is also energizing. From going over the Ride’s route to reviewing the themes of justice in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, one can see the Spirit at work. I feel strongly identified with the words of the Prophet Isaiah that Jesus quoted in Nazareth, “The Spirit…has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” That is the work that we will be engaged in for this Ride. So many queer-folk are imprisoned and oppressed, and we all have an obligation to work for the change that Jesus proclaimed.

The route was shared with us today which includes schools in Baptist, Methodist, Adventist, and many more faith traditions. Included amongst this list is Houghton College, the school that I attended for several years. From my experiences I know that this campus is in desperate need of message of Equality. Cisgenderism and heterosexism have no place on a campus professing the Christian Gospel. However, I do recognize that the presence of these attitudes are merely due to the fact that many just have never experienced these minorities, and that with acquaintance will eventually come acceptance and affirmation. This is what gives me hope, and I know that Houghton and the many other colleges on our journey can change if we give them opportunity to.

In the coming months, I hope to share much more with you about the wonderful work that I will be doing. My blog, https://thewayfarerscreed.wordpress.com, will hopefully be a place that I can share with you, and I hope to communicate in other ways as well.

And finally, I must make the plug for financial support. All projects require money as we all know, and the Equality Ride is no different. For every Rider, we must raise $3500. While this may seem a bit intimidating and a bit like one cannot make a dent in that, the reality is that every little bit counts. Even if you can only contribute a single dollar, that dollar will send ripples through the lives of countless individuals. To help out in this way I’d ask you to go to http://www.soulforce.org/andrew to find out how to contribute. And if you decide that you are not able to contribute in this way, I’d like to also let you know that there will most likely be opportunities for you to physically stand with us at Houghton.

Thank you for all the support that you have already given to me, and I thank you for all the prayers and support that I know you will continue to give me in the coming months.

Peace & Rainbows 🙂

This morning in our service and education hour, the story of Esther was discussed in relation to how we relate to Empire. But in our discussions got a little into how Queen Vashti is depicted in the book as a villain, but how her actions are actually pretty virtuous to us as modern feminist Mennonites. So I’d love to do some reading on this, but have no idea where to find the resources. If you know of anything regarding this let me know.

In my Sex and Gender class, someone brought up the recent incident in South Africa over an intersex runner competing in the women’s competitions.  One of my classmates then basically said that there is no place for the intersexed in athletics.  I beg to differ, and this is how I responded.  Any additional comments?

On the surface this does seem to be an unsolveable problem.  But the only thing that this means is that we need to figure out a new way to hold athletic competition.  Just because you don’t fit into society’s acceptable sexes doesn’t mean that you are not capable in athletics.  So let’s queeer our thought and come up with a solution.  In the discussions about women in the military, we see a suggestion that sex not put up as a barrier, due to the fact that there is a general physical “advantage” by the males of our species.  I’d like to suggest that the same thought should be applied here.  Let all people regardless of their sex (female, male, or other) compete against each other.  Some will say, but then the women have no way to win.  So then establish a tiered system based on ability, not on sex.  We already have distinctions between ability and disability, ie. Special Olympics. Why not expand the tiers throughout the system, so that people such as Ms. Semanya can continue to do what she loves.



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