Monday, February 24, 2014

It's ok...she said

Through the years I've wished I could remember my grandmothers voices, my mommy's voice and Aunt Dorothy's laugh. I can't hear them in my mind no matter how hard I try to remember. I can remember that Aunt Dorothy laughed out loud but I cannot hear it.
That makes what happened last night all the more meaningful. I heard my step-grandmother's voice.  Not the 100 year old voice but her voice from younger, stronger days.
She and I were estranged in these last years before she died. Six or eight years ago she felt a need to write me a letter about repenting from my "lifestyle". I tried to temper my response noting that my lifestyle is pretty ordinary - going to work every day, volunteering, caring for my dog... And I wrote that being a lesbian is very much like being left handed. It's just the natural way I was born. And I noted that many years ago being left handed was considered a mark of Satan, people were forced to be right handed, and that the world is mostly over that now. I had no idea, until I got her response, that she had been born left handed and forced to be right handed. Of course, she stuck to her position and said it didn't hurt her a bit to be forced to be right handed.
I threw the letters away and have tried not to worry about it, understanding that she was old, set in her ways, and likely thought she was trying to do something good. But it was painful and caused some conflicts.
So, I was quite surprised to hear her voice last night.  I was sitting at the computer, reading news about gay marriage issues as I tend to do. She startled me. As clear as if she were right beside me, "It's ok to be left handed." she said. I recognized her voice immediately and smiled.
"The grass really is greener on the other side." I said back.
Oddly, today I cannot recall her voice any more than I can any of the others. Some may say I'm crazy but I know it really was her.
Thank you Grandma Elsie.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Ruby moment...

File:US Marshals with Young Ruby Bridges on School Steps.jpg 

Many of us look back with shame at the treatment of Ruby Bridges, one of the first black students (1960) to attend an all white elementary school.  Only one teacher in the school would agree to teach her.  Armed guards escorted her to school amid an environment of unimaginable hostility.
It's hard to imagine today what people were thinking as they threatened a little girl going to school.  It's hard to understand that most school officials, the community, and most of the parents affiliated with the school could be so hostile - even to the point that one put a black doll in a coffin outside in protest. Viewing this in hindsight and for those seeing this from a great distance at the time, it was horrific. But in that community, at that time, the hostility was normal and they felt - quite justified.
Ruby Bridges symbolized a break in tradition and a crossing of barriers that they felt should not be crossed. They were justified to express their anger and could not see beyond it - even justified enough to hate a little girl going to school. Blacks, they felt, were not and could never be treated as equals.
Scenes like this awakened a nation. It unveiled the core of hatred for what it is - sad and evil.
I recall the news stories and the talk of that decade.  We may not have had separate water fountains, but even here in Venango County, Pennsylvania there were traditions and cultural lines that were not to be crossed. Those carried into the 70's and 80's and undertones continue.
As there is a push for change, there will always be resistance. As I watch the stories unfold in the quest for LGBT civil rights, I need only read stories like this about Ruby Bridges to understand how far people will go to resist change. It will boil up in outrageous hatred. There will be communities who stand by silently as vocal citizens say and do outrageous things.
On the other side - decades from now - many will look back in shame. It will be hard to imagine what people were thinking as they picketed a soldiers funeral saying that it was God's punishment for Gays in the military.  It will be hard to imagine that someone actually thought that marriage was somehow less sanctified if people of the same sex could marry. It will be hard to imagine that someone thought selling a cake might infringe on their religious freedom. It will be as hard to imagine that civil rights had anything to do with religion as it is hard to imagine now that religious freedom had anything to do with DE-segregation of the United States in the 1960's.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Don't tell me you're Gay!

I understand it can be quite annoying to keep being reminded that you actually know a lot of gay or lesbian people. You just want to cover your ears and eyes and start doing the "la, la, la, la" thing.  It's especially hard if they are people you actually like or liked if they would just quit reminding you that they are gay.  It can be down right painful.
If it's your neighbor, co-worker, cousin, sister or child, it's really hard to hold onto any long held belief that homosexuality is dreadful or dangerous.  It would be much easier if they would all just keep it to themselves.  How can you look them in they eye and say calmly "hate the sin, love the sinner"?  It's a serious problem.
Now gay and lesbian people are getting married. You can't even tell anymore that everyone who says they are married is heterosexual. How can you separate them out? It was so much simpler when you could assume that everyone was straight and wanted to be straight.
Who could have ever imagined that gay and lesbian people would try to convince you that they are just as normal as you? And openly announcing it - well - that's just too much!
Why would anyone want to announce who they love? What is the world coming to?

Here is your answer -

“Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all. And once you do, you will feel so much better”
Harvey Milk