You can't hate someone whose story you know.
Dare to know the story of those who are different.
“The tiniest story in your life can deeply touch another. You cannot know the effect your story might have.”--Sark
When Adam, who we met in Boulder wrote back to say we could use his words in our last newsletter, he said “Feel free to include what I wrote in your next newsletter, I signed up on the mailing list and got my first email today. It was a great read. Hope your trip continues to open minds and hearts. Funny that you can't spell heart without ear, 'cause it’s all about listening . . .” Great point, Adam...a good reminder!
Over the past 11 months, Roby has continued to capture some great pictures with Rylee Joy, our connector. When she's not relaxing, she gets us into conversations with people who may otherwise not be interested in conversing.
Think about it, how strange would it be to walk up to someone on the beach, tap them on the shoulder, and say, “Hey, would you like to have a conversation?” Most of us just don’t do that. Dogs, however, get us humans connecting with one another! What else does? Scotty Trailers!
Bob and Robin, from Topeka, Kansas, have a 1984 12 ½ foot Serro Scotty Trailer. Ours is also a 1984, but a foot longer, and when you’re on a year-long journey around the USA, that foot is significant!
Bob and Robin first read about us and our GISA Journey in the Spring 2006 Scotty Newsletter from Nancy Kroes in Michigan. After reading about us, they promptly emailed and invited us to stay with them if we were ever in Topeka. In addition, they said, “We have two gay sons!” We have been in contact with Bob and Robin ever since, and therefore, made a point to visit them on our way to Nebraska.
(L-R) Robin, Bob, Billy, Dotti, Rylee Joy & Roby
We enjoyed spending time with newlyweds, Bob and Robin, who just married in June 2006! We also enjoyed spending time with Billy, Bob’s youngest son, and Andrew, Robin’s youngest son. One night, Dotti helped to educate everyone by explaining pictures of GRS (Gender Reassignment Surgery), detailing how the operation is done. This family asked great questions, not only about the surgery, but about being transgender in all aspects. Genuine interest once again led to education.
We washed the suburban and the Scotty just before leaving for Lincoln, Nebraska
Before leaving for Lincoln, the rig was not the only thing that got washed. After Roby dyed my pants to get them black again, they had to be washed too. This is part of doing life on a budget...dying your pants, cutting and coloring your own hair, etc.
She's a good spouse, isn't she? And cute to boot!
Our time in Topeka was one of contrasts. One experience was driving by and having our picture made outside the “gated compound” of Fred Phelps. Unable to go inside, the sign God Hates America hangs on the church in the background.
Why do we smile outside Fred's church? We choose only light and love
to counteract his fear and hate-filled messages.
In the next moment, we were going through the Museum for Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site. It is housed in the former Monroe Elementary School and interprets the legacy of the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ended legally sanctioned segregation in public schools. I wonder if people made the accusation in 1954 that there were “liberal judges” on the bench, and that we must do everything we can to save America? Comments we heard as we toured the museum, recounting the fear of that era, sounded very familiar to fears today about legal rights and protections for GLBT persons.
Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site
Fred Phelps' primary passion in life has been protesting and picketing anything gay or American. Fred was most recently in the news for protesting at funerals of fallen soldiers, which subsequently brought about the bill to prohibit such.
Our question is this: Where has our government been while Fred and his family have been protesting funerals of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people? Why did it take military funerals to get our government to pay attention?
As we walked through the halls of the museum, leaving a voice message about its impact for others to hear, we reminded them that we must learn from history and that, though different situations, there are undeniable parallels between this time in history and our present time where GLBT are refused many legal rights. Indeed they are different situations, but the fear is similar.
Dotti: In experiencing these contrasts of Topeka, I felt moved to tears. I felt sad that Fred Phelps reminds me of the fearful people that made it so difficult to eradicate segregation. I have heard that he originally helped people during the civil rights era in Topeka. If anyone can verify this, please let us know. If it is true, what happened to Fred between then and now? What has caused Fred to create a website called www.GodHatesFags.com?
I share this site, knowing that for some who are still triggered by Fred, viewing this and feeling the sting of it is an important step in healing. You may feel as if you want to resist seeing it. If you do, look beneath to determine why you have resistance. None of us heals by avoiding pain. We heal by feeling our pain, embracing our pain, and moving through our pain.
I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Our GLBTA (yes allies too) cannot be silent any more if we are to move forward and create a huge transformation in our society and world.
People like to distance themselves from Fred Phelps, thinking they are not like him. Many are more alike than they are different, when you consider that the bottom line of Fred Phelps and others is often the same. They feel we are an abomination, perverted, and are "going to hell."
Fred Phelps’ antics may not “look” as good as those of others, but the “words and actions” of many are the same, as they speak about GLBT in ways that do not communicate love. They communicate fear. We choose to see their fear as a call for love…and we have a lot of love to give.
We also find that diminishing others often takes energy and focus away from what we can do. Evidence of that is a reminder by Bob Minor, who in his last newsletter, said, I want to recommend for your thinking an important recent article by Berkeley linguist George Lakoff - “ Bush is Not Incompetent. ” Emphasizing the idea that the problem is that Bush is incompetent or stupid, he agrees with Lakoff, could very well hinder our progress. Bob encourages us to "Read it and think about it."
We agree. Our insistence that President Bush is bumbling in some way really causes us to lose focus of the target, causing us to miss communicating the points we want to make in an effective way. The bottom line is that it is not about what Bush ISN'T for our community, it is about who we ARE for our community. We do not empower ourselves with those type of tactics.
Dr. James Dobson may be doing “Love Won Out” Conferences around the country, but that doesn’t mean that GLBT persons, who are not struggling with who they are and are not interested in changing, feel loved inside those conferences. How do we know that? We, along with several other friends, attended the Love Won Out Conference in Seattle last June, going inside to be a loving presence to people. Click here if you haven’t previously read that unedited synopsis.
We also recently heard from Katrina Presko after we left Colorado Springs, as she shared her first hand account of how their teachings have harmed her. She is a lesbian and daughter of a minister. Her story is a familiar one to those of us in the GLBT community. For every person who goes through Exodus and attends Love Won Out conferences and chooses to live heterosexually, there are many more who are simply not able to live life in that way. And why should they? It would analagous to asking heterosexual people to live as homosexual people, and expecting them to agree to do so and expecting them to be comfortable and happy about the choice.
We included what she emailed us last week, sharing how the teachings of James Dobson, in addition to counseling by Melissa Fryrear, have been damaging to her. Click here for her full story.
Speaking of Colorado Springs, click here to read the story of our friends,
Ken and Jamieson and their family, consisting of triplets Spencer, Parker, Hunter, and Tanner Lewis-Allen. Their story of standing with Soulforce and how that changed their lives will both inspire and empower you. And there are more pics at that link too!
(L-R) Tanner, Jamieson, Ken, Spencer, Parker, & Hunter Lewis-Allen
More feedback from friends. Remember Roby's disappointment with eating fried catfish, after having been encouraged to do so by our friend, Cathy Angell? Well, we have not heard the last of this! (:
Dear Roby and Dotti,
In your last newsletter, it became very clear to me that you are "struggling" with your relationship to catfish. You spelled it "cat fish" and declared that it tastes like dirt. Now, you may not realize it, but (at least) 10% of all the people you know are catfish lovers. They are living authentically and dissolving differences with bottomfish everywhere. It is true, that sometimes fish (of ALL kinds) can taste like mud. In fact, just last week, Ronna's parents told us a story about camping in Central Oregon and catching a whole bunch of trout that tasted muddy. So, there you go....
I happen to believe that nothing tastes better than fried catfish served with hush puppies or fried okra. But here's the trick: Go to a good catfish restaurant that serves FARMED catfish (i.e., Cracker Barrel). Typically, the taste is much sweeter and milder than catfish caught in the wild. I promise that I am not recruiting, but, for the sake of your readers who might have catfish-loving tendencies but don't know it yet, I implore you to open your hearts and minds and visit Cracker Barrel (or some other reputable establishment) while you're in the lovely Midwest. Love to you on your journey.
Transforming the world, one catfish at a time,
Ok, Cathy, before we come home, we are going to the Cracker Barrel and give fried catfish another chance for redemption!
From Topeka, we drove to Lincoln, Nebraska, to spend a few days with Amy, Tom, Karlene and Sam Tipton, before we head to Omaha, Nebraska to speak on August 10 and 11.
Back Row (L-R) Sam, Amy & Tom
Front Row (L-R) Karlene (holding Zora), Dotti with Rylee Joy, & Roby
Although you can't see each person's arm,
we are all wearing rainbow wristbands! Click here to order yours today!
Amy is the sister of Mary DeLaney, our friend in Herndon, VA. Since we stayed with Mary & Al and met Mary’s sister, Lorna (Spirit Cruises/Sodexho), we knew we had to meet the last and youngest sister, Amy.
We had a wonderful time in Lincoln and loved being in the Tipton home. Amy and Tom have raised two amazing kids, Carlene (16) and Sam (15), who are not only nice, but who are kind, congenial, polite and considerate of others.
Sam & Rylee Joy
Tom, Karlene and Sam are avid tennis players, and are so committed to the sport that they go out in 103 degrees (heat index of 110) to practice. We found it difficult just to walk a few hundred yards down a trail at the dog park!
Rylee Joy & Karlene
Zora, a Carin Terrier (like Toto) loved playing with and kissing Rylee. We would say, "Where's Dorothy?" but we know where she is. Right here in Lincoln, Nebraska with Roby. Oh, wrong Dorothy! Rylee wasn’t too sure about all this affection from another canine at first, but before long, she learned to enjoy it and let Zora crawl over her and lie down beside her.
Zora and Rylee Joy's first dance
Zora, on the second day of our stay, went to the groomers and came back with none other than a rainbow bandana around her neck! We weren’t sure if this meant she was coming out as a lesbian, or just supporting us and Rylee as an ally. Either way, we loved it!
Before our stay was over, Tom and Amy took us on a tour of Lincoln. We saw the University of Nebraska, the State Capital, and the Governor’s Mansion. Seeing the Mansion and having our photo taken in front of it was significant and special because Amy used to live there! Yes, Norbert Tiemann (the father of Amy, Mary & Lorna), was the Republican Governor of Nebraska from 1967-1971. Amy showed us the trees that she and Lorna used to climb in the yard of the Capital building, saying, “That tree was Lorna’s and this one was mine!”
(L-R) Amy, Tom & Dotti
This family reminds us of the importance of allies. When they each dare to wear their rainbow wristband, they make a commitment to creating authentic connections and having deeper conversations, however that works for them.
Why is this important? Similar to the civil rights era, allies are important. Individuals, and society as a whole, are more empowered when we are a diverse group of people working together to bridge the divide between differences that separate us. So we appreciate and honor the Tipton family...Amy, Tom, Karlene & Ssm.
None of these four would probably sit silent today if a slur and/or joke was made against African-Americans. As well, if Congress tried to enact a law to keep rights away from people of color, giving equal rights only to white Americans, their parents would make sure their vote was known and counted. We can imagine that each of them would undeniably think that keeping equal rights and protections from African Americans to be wrong.
Many people of good conscience sat silently by during the civil rights era, an attempt by whites to keep our black brothers and sisters “in their place,” even leading to lynchings. How did that happen? Many people did not choose to move past their fears, especially regarding what others thought. They stayed stuck in their fear, believing the moralizing of many ministers, as well as others, regarding how giving equal rights would harm our society.
We always say that you can’t hate someone whose story you know. Amy was impacted early in her life by the knowledge that her best friend, Rich, is gay. This understanding has allowed the rest of the family to have a greater understanding as well.
Today, this family represents the crossroads at which many families stand. They have the opportunity to become powerful Stand UP Speak OUT allies. We hope that all of our allies will LEARN FROM HISTORY, as they recall what happened during the civil rights era, and be determined to be a part of creating history. Unequal treatment of GLBT persons will either continue to be another blight on the history of our great country, or people like the Tipton family will be a part of moving our society forward.
So… we have finished our “tour” of the Tiemann family. We have concluded that not only are all three ladies drop dead gorgeous, they are all simply wonderful people, with wonderful families, who we feel blessed to call “friends.”
Just as we were preparing to post this newsletter, we received this from Amy:
Uh oh ladies, we have a problem. Aora is in crisis...or as Tom said, is traumatized. She has been sitting by the window, waiting and watching for her friend. And keeps waiting, and waiting. *sigh* poor thing. And the dreaded suitcase is out. She knows what that means. We'll have to make sure that she gets some extra TLC for the next few days. She has an appt at the vet tonight for her 1 year check up . Maybe Megan can offer some advice of the forelorn.
I hope you have a very safe trip the rest of the way. It was absolutely wonderful to get to know you all and Rylee. Go spread the word. I've got my rainbow on as we speak. Be safe.
Roby then replied:
Dotti and I are sitting here in Panera Bread with tears streaming down are faces. I started reading your email to Dotti, and couldn't finish because I started crying. I am the Queen Projector, and therefore, feel the pain of others...even when they may not be in pain! Argh. I keep thinking of how I would feel if I were in Zora's place, and then I cry. Zora and Rylee fell in love, and now we've pulled them apart. Rylee is in the trailer with the fan on...she's pretty used to making friends and then having to leave them, but even still, the first day, she is very quiet and acts like she's sad.
Anyhow... As you put it, *sigh*... I know you will all give Zora lots of TLC in the next few days...And time is a healer! We know that firsthand! 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
We did a couple of interviews this week. One was by Michael, whose website www.mikeypod.com carries the interview on a podcast. Click here and go to Episode 61 to hear that. We have already heard from one gentleman who listened to it.
Sharing that he had done a lot of transformation work through Landmark Education, and wondering if we were graduates (based on our languaging and remarks) he said,
"My boyfriend and I broke up about a year and a half ago (we had done much of our transformation work together, and had been together for nearly 8 years, which made it very difficult), and I'm still holding stuff from that, making him wrong and having rackets about it. As much as I want to keep doing that, I know that it's holding me back from moving forward 100% in my life. Something in the way you were speaking with Mikey tonight made me face that, and I know that I want to let go of that and move forward. Thank you very much."
We thank this gentleman for his remarks, which cut to the true essence of our journey. Gay Into Straight America is about moving beyond what triggers us to connect in authentic ways in life. We have been making practical application of this principle. Letting go of stuff has been what our last three weeks on the road has been about, as we continue to reach out to one another and others in authentic ways. His email reminds us that with awareness, we truly do have a choice to move forward 100% in our lives. Kathy Kiefer's end to her recent email is again so fitting and simply profound...
Ancora Imparo - I am always learning
Several people have written to share their response to recent newsletters.
From Ann at the beautiful and spiritual haven called Koinonia Community in Americus, Georgia. (Ann is the lady who originally invited us to speak there).
Dear Dotti & Roby,
Thanks for your continued updates. It's neat to follow you virtually. I have a few joys to share with you... there are many here at Koinonia, but I believe you receive our monthly enewsletter, so I am just sending you a few that might be of particular interest to you.
I thought you might like to know that one of our interns recently came out as gay to the community during noontime devotion. He said that part of feeling that his coming out would be accepted here was due to reading the article about your visit here on our website. He shared with me that he had heard that the more people you are out to, the more comfortable you are with yourself. Afterwards I asked him how he felt, and he said that he felt like a great burden had been lifted. He also has begun to ask for hugs when needed, which is a great side effect for both parties. :-) So thank you for your part in that. I am also proud of our community's embrace of Chris.
Congratulations Chris!!! You are correct in your assessment about being comfortable with yourself. Being authentic takes practice. As both Roby and I personally know, it also means allowing ourselves to make mistakes along the way, and making adjustments as we go. None of us becomes authentic by being perfect. We become authentic by taking risks, and evolving through those risks.
Ann also added…you might remember (or you might not, you meet so many
people) me talking with you about J.'s dad, who is a pastor of a tiny little church in Eton, GA. Well, J. (quietly but surely, as always) passed along to his dad Walter Wink's little book, Homosexuality and the Bible. Jim (J.'s dad) told me that it was one of the most thought-provoking and well done essays he's read in a long time, and he read it three times, and thanked J. for sharing it with him. I think he is wrestling with the issues now, and maybe reconsidering his position (which I have never been exactly sure of, although I do know he treats all people with love and believes God loves everyone, even if he doesn't agree with their actions). I'm really glad of all of that.
Remember, we did not undertake our journey, Gay Into Straight America, in order to change people’s minds. We want to engage people’s hearts and minds. As our website says, “Transforming ourselves and others, one person at a time.” It is amazing how our own transformation continues to happen on a daily basis.
Another email…from Deb in Nashville:
Hi Dotti & Roby--I haven't written to you in a while but have been keeping up with you every week. I just read this week's adventures & I was moved to tears by many things. I just don't understand why everybody doesn't get it---love can be between anybody. Love is love. It is so sad that so many just don't get it. Seeing that picture of Matthew Shepard's mother--brought so many emotions back of when that happened. Also meeting Tonya--my mother was like Tonya, living in fear of a husband. My sister and I suffered so much growing up. We would have had to put your wristband in a cigar box too. That picture of Rylee Joy and Tonya fishing--so emotional seeing her smiling and happy. Now I am able to wear your wristband with pride!! No one keeps me in a cigar box anymore. I love you guys & just had to write. I am looking forward to many more adventures from you. Hugs & Love--Deb from Nashville (I wrote your article from Freedom Press & need to send you the paper, but lost your address!! Typical me :))
So, Deb, we hope that you saw the newsletter from the week after, with pictures of Tonya’s husband, Gary, wearing his “Two Women and a Poodle” cap. We shared about how Gary looked at our wedding pictures, as well as our wedding video. We appreciate the good times we had with Tonya and Gary...they are both great people.
Our friend Wendy, in Seattle, wrote in reference to our newsletter a couple of weeks ago where we talked about claiming the word “marriage,” whether we have the legal rights or not.
Dotti and Roby,
I thought you might like to see what I wrote to a gay friend tonight. I loved it when you said in today's post that you are married. Wendy
It's late, I'm fuming and letting you do the reading. I just read the blog you sent and got to thinking.
I sent in the letter below to the PI today. It is my feeling that just
as we ( and I do consider myself part of the gay community, no offense
intended) took over the word gay, we must take over the word marriage. I listened to Ron and Don on the way to Seattle last night and several of the
people were clear that they had no problem with gay couples getting
legality, just don't use the word marriage to describe it. So if we start
doing it anyway, won't we pretty soon find they lost that argument?
When you and Stephen tell me you are married, whether now or when you go to Canada, then I will henceforth refer to you two that way and call Stephen your husband. Why should only civil marriages be called marriage? We keep saying there is a difference between civil and religious which is playing into the other side's argument. If there are two kinds of marriage, civil and religious, then let's call all religious, or just plain spiritual
marriages, just that.
Home schooling is legal. I helped get that law passed. Today there are
probably hundreds in WA who home school illegally and no one challenges them because they basically are hiding behind the skirts of the 19,000 who
home school legally. Can't this be the same thing? If you say you are
married, I doubt many will challenge you to your face. They may pause and
think, gee, I didn't know gays could marry, but probably figure they were
mistaken. Or if they ask, you can say, Well, we've had a religious
marriage. Let them chew on that. Your thoughts?
Letter to Editor on marriage
The Supreme Court has ruled to defend civil marriage against gay couples.
The plaintiff couples have shown that partners can remain faithful for
decades without benefits from the government. More and more gay couples will sanctify their unions in accepting churches before family and friends, the government be damned. They will call them marriages. This segment of the gay community was invisible up until a few years ago. Now they are out. As Governor Christine Gregoire said in her statement on the ruling, she was
married by her church, not the government. Having the legal benefits from
the government would have been wonderful for gay couples, but not having
them won't make their marriages go away. And the divorce rate or birth rate of heterosexuals will not change.
Another friend also wrote:
Thank you for what you're doing for everyone.
This is Ross whom you met back at Koinonia. I'm in awe of what you've been able to do. I've been touched by all your correspondence. You are two of my favorite people of all time. I'd planned to e-mail you more but now I can and will. I've come back to Koinonia for a couple of weeks. Will write more this week. Thanks for keeping me on your mailing list. I love you both very much and everyone here does also. I'll write again this week. Give my love to the world’s greatest poodle. Peace---your friend---Ross Thompson
Click here for one of Lars Clausen’s “Page-A-Day” writings, and read about following your heart. It’s a great one, ending with the following quote by Mark Twain:
Twenty years from now
you will be more disappointed
By the things you did not do,
than by the things you did do,
So throw off the bowlines,
set sail from the safe harbor
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.
These words us recognize the importance of taking our year long journey. We know we will never regret it.
We didn’t get pics of some of the gals in Trinidad until after we sent our last newsletter. If you recall, Sabrina Taraboletti is the lady who not only is the IT person at Mount San Rafael Hospital in Trinidad, but has also opened up the home called Morning Glow House, where the gals can stay both before and after surgery. What a great lady!
Sabrina & Roby
Kelly Hanning is from Seattle, so we are looking forward to seeing her again.
Kelly had a trachea shave the day before, thus the bandage.
This decreases the size of the male "adam's apple," making it less prominent.
It is part of the feminzation process that some choose.