Did we mention…A couple of weeks ago as we traveled from Georgia, a car pulled up behind us almost the minute we crossed the Florida line, waited for us to notice them, and gave us the “thumbs up” sign? Thank you to Florida License Plate W22IXB! When I was writing it down, Roby looked at me with a quizzical look on her face. I told her I planned to acknowledge them in our newsletter. I said, “Were you worried about me sharing someone’s personal info?” The look on her face told me “yes,” and then we both laughed as we realized that license plate numbers are seen by everyone…everyday! Nothing personal about that, huh? (:
Although we don't have a PFLAG talk this week, other interesting scenarios continue to happen! Just when we “thought” we were simply going to Daytona Beach for a week of R & R, we continue to discover opportunities in everyday situations. It reminds us that this journey is a part of life that will never end, in the sense that authentic connections abound everywhere, each and every day of our lives. We only have to keep our eyes and hearts open.
We left Apopka, Florida, where we spent another week-end at the home of our friends, Lisa & Carol, and headed to Daytona Beach. We had a time share exchange that needed to be used before March. We arrived, only to discover that our Scotty trailer was not allowed on the property. We already knew that Rylee wasn’t allowed, but we had planned to keep her in the Scotty at night, and keep her out walking and playing during the day. We were suddenly in a bind. What were we going to do? We could go find other accommodations, but then we would lose this week exchange. We sat on the curb outside the Grand Seas Resort contemplating our options…or lack thereof. We then thought of Carol and Lisa. Rylee had gotten along well with their two dogs, “Parker” and “Z.” We called them, and they graciously agreed to keep Rylee for the week, and let us leave our Scotty on their property.
Lisa & Carol
The late-night ride back to Apopka to drop off Rylee and the Scotty, included many tears. Rylee is so much a part of our lives that it’s difficult to leave her, even when we know she’s in good hands. We are ever so grateful to Carol and Lisa for their generosity and willingness to keep Rylee for the week. Rylee probably thinks she is at camp this week, and having the time of her life!
We got back to Daytona around 12:45 a.m., and went up to settle into our room on the 4th floor. Once we went in, we noticed the odor of smoke. Roby doesn’t do elevators unless there are no stairs, and having allergies & asthma, Dotti doesn’t do smoke. Those two factors led us back to the front desk asking for another (lower level) room. The very nice guy at the front desk took extra time looking for another room for us, and found one on the first floor. When we walked in, we were pleasantly surprised to find that not only was it on the first floor, and did not smell of smoke, but it had a patio that went directly out to the pool and the beach! YES!
On Monday, Jan. 16th, there was a wine & cheese welcome reception for all the new guests at the Grand Seas Resort. We went, and had a great time. The first people we met were Daryl and Shane, a nice guy from Tennessee, who welcomed us as we entered. Shane asked what brought us to Daytona, so we told him about our Gay Into Straight America Journey. He kept saying, “God bless you-en’s…God bless y’all.”
Shane & Daryl, who welcomed us to the "Welcome Party"
We were able to get a pic of them beachside the next day
We enjoyed ourselves at the reception, participating in the dancing, games and karaoke! We arrived a little after 6 p.m., with the host shouting out to us, asking what state we were from. Within minutes, one of our favorite songs, Chances Are (by Johnny Mathis) played. How appropriate that Johnny Mathis should be singing! We headed to the dance floor, and did our best Fox Trot. Afterwards, two different couples, both with Washington connections, approached our table and introduced themselves. And, yes, you read it right, we sang Karaoke! What these two girls won’t do for a chance at a cruise to the Bahamas! The only way to have your name put into the drawing was by “singing.” In honor of our dear friends in Germany, Adele & Annett, we sang, “Delta Dawn.” The only “problem” was that we only know the chorus, so were fairly lost and didn’t know the tune to the verses. The next song we wanted to do (the more you sang, the greater your chances of winning the cruise) was “Imagine” in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Karaoke guy didn’t have “Imagine,” so we chose “Over the Rainbow” instead, and dedicated it to Dr. King. Before we went up to the microphones, Dotti said to Roby, “I have a surprise for you.” That “surprise” was that she was going to stand up there while Roby sang! Hey, she performed her solo beautifully, acknowledged by the wild clapping of the crowd. Toward the end of the reception, Roby participated in a game of “Simon Says.” There were about 20 people starting the game, and guess who was the last one standing? Yep, you guessed it, Roby was. She won a nice yellow Grand Seas Resort beach towel, which was perfect, since we only packed one beach towel when we left on the journey! When the game began, Roby said, “I want that towel!” Check her out!
Roby & her Beach Towel! "Simon Says" pays off!
Before the evening was over, Dotti went up to the lady who was serving the wine, to give her a tip (her tip jar had already been taken down). We struck up a conversation with her, and discovered that she had noticed us dancing together, and she wanted to tell us that she supports who we are. Gula is from Uzbekistan (South Russia), and plans to return to her homeland in the near future. We had such a delightful connection with Gula, and another lady named Star, who is also from Russia and lives with her husband here in the States.
(L-R) Roby, Gula, & Dotti
Jody M. Huckaby, PFLAG's Executive Director, shared in the last Weekly Update,
I read a remarkable book this week entitled “A Biblical Defense Guide For Gays, Lesbians and Those Who Love Them.” Craig Bettendorf, a retired bishop of the Evangelical Anglican Church in America, wrote the book to help people understand how fundamentalist faith community leaders have been misusing and manipulating biblical references to justify their vilification of homosexuality, and, more damaging, their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender family and neighbors.
On that note, Dotti recently read the following book, and Roby is currently reading it: What God Has Joined Together? A Christian Case for Gay Marriage, by David G. Myers & Letha Dawson Scanzoni. (A book written by heterosexual Christians). This is an excellent book for understanding all sides of the coin. Here are some of the nuggets Roby read this week and wants to share with you:
“Reta Halteman Finger suggests that as people of faith struggle over the question of homosexuality today, they might find it more helpful to concentrate on the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of Romans rather than the first chapter. These chapters provide a case study of other, differing viewpoints that were hindering community within the early Christian church.
Bitter divisions were taking place between Gentile Christians and those Christians from Jewish backgrounds who strongly believed that the Torah’s requirements of dietary rules and observances of special days must continue as part of the Christian faith. Finger points out how important these practices were to Jewish daily life both socially and in business dealings. They were “boundary markers separating Jews from Gentiles. Those who observed these rules were part of the people of God; those who did not were outside.” Finger writes:
Paul had dedicated himself to bringing the gospel to Gentiles and to breaking down the walls between Jew and Gentile – and this involved abandoning the boundary-markers of circumcision, food laws and observance of Sabbaths and special religious days. This would have been little problem for Gentiles who had never practiced these laws, but for those whose very identity was bound up with them, the crisis must have been monumental.
Knowing how deep the emotions on these issues were running, Paul provided advice that was sensitive to both sides. Neither side was to pass judgment on the other. Persons who had embraced the Christian faith, regardless of whether their background was Jewish or Gentile, must be convinced in their own minds and act according to their own consciences on these particular issues. To do otherwise would be sin. And at the same time, they were to respect their sisters and brothers in Christ who were convinced differently and acting according to their consciences.
On a similar note, Don Blosser calls attention to the early church’s divisions over accepting uncircumcised Gentiles into the family of faith. In that instance, the church leaders had to make decisions about whether the Gentile converts must first become Jews (with circumcision as the outward sign) before they could become Christians. A special church conference was held to decide this issue, and the leaders came to an agreement that “they would no longer demand the ancient religious tradition of circumcision as a requirement for membership in the people of God.” The issue was resolved, as Blosser points out, because the early church believed that God’s Spirit was leading them “in a new direction and was challenging a practice that had always been a central declaration of Jewish faith.” Asking rhetorically what it was that gave these Christians the authority to make such a change, he provides this answer:
The Holy Spirit confronted them in the form of persons who had experienced the grace of God. This challenged them to re-examine how they had been reading some specific texts in the Scriptures. As they read the texts in light of this new experience of God’s grace, they came to a new understanding.
We might also want to think about the story of Peter’s vision in Acts 10, in which God pronounced formerly forbidden foods as now acceptable, using this vision to awaken Peter to God’s welcoming of Gentiles. Captain Cornelius of the Roman Army was in a sense a prototype of those who had been considered “other” – people whom Jews had been instructed to shun (Acts 10:27) – but who nevertheless had not exchanged the worship of the true God for false gods. Cornelius had been worshipping God alone and deserved to be accepted as a member of God’s family, even though Peter and others had understood Scripture to exclude Gentiles. In his vision, Peter had argued with God about dietary rules, telling God he couldn’t eat something hat God had pronounced in Scripture to be unclean – even though God was now telling him to eat it. Now he had to acknowledge a new understanding, not only about food, but about Gentile people as well. It wasn’t easy for Peter to give up long-held assumptions, but getting to know Cornelius made all the difference, so that Peter was able to proclaim, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
Might not this same thing be happening today as heterosexual people of faith are getting to know devout gay and lesbian people of faith and being forced to reconsider long-held assumptions and interpretations of Scripture?”
Why is it important to understand aspects of the Bible? The best reason I know is that there is a discrepancy between what the scriptures really say, and how GLBT persons are perceived due to erroneous teachings by many religious institutions. Whether you are a person of faith or not, these erroneous teachings affect each of us and our society. Due to false teachings by many churches, the Bible continues to be utilized as a weapon in our society for manipulation and control, leading to spiritual violence against our community. Case in Point? A press release by Soulforce this past week shares how Rev. Lonnie Latham became another victim of the “Southern Baptist Lie” regarding homosexuality. Rev. Latham, a prominent figure in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and senior pastor of South Tulsa Baptist Church, was arrested last Tuesday for propositioning a male undercover police officer. Soulforce founder Rev. Dr. Mel White says, "No one should have to come out via an undercover sting operation. That is its own evil. Until the Southern Baptist Convention ends their spiritual violence against gay and lesbian people, tragedies like this will continue."
Our friend, Jamie McDaniel, a spokesperson for Soulforce who works to change the anti-gay policies of the SBC, said, “It’s unconscionable that so many, like Rev. Latham, have never been told the truth that they can live with dignity and express their God-given sexuality in ways that are open, honest, loving, and life-affirming. Trapped by Southern Baptist misinformation, many people of faith think their only option is to live a dark and secretive double-life. The SBC needs to be held accountable for causing this kind of needless suffering.” Click here to read the rest of the press release.
Dotti: This reminds me of our Soulforce action at the Southern Baptist Conference in June, 2000 where 28 of us were arrested. In a press release by Soulforce, it was noted that "The Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly to revise its 37-year-old Faith and Message statement when it met in Orlando June 14. The new policy moves the largest Protestant denomination in the United States farther into fundamentalism by prohibiting women pastors and rejecting homosexuality." Click here to read the rest of that press release. I feel sad that almost six years later, these policies regarding GLBT persons have only intensified, with the tragedy of Rev. Latham feeling the need to lead a double-life in order to be acceptable to the church being one of the results.
And, continuing to reminisce about that Soulforce action in Orlando, I am excited that Roby & I will spend Saturday at a women's retreat with Fran Porter, another wonderful soul who I was also privileged to have met in jail after our arrest at the Southern Baptist Conference in June, 2000. Fran Porter spent her 30th wedding anniversary being a part of standing up and speaking out for GLBT persons. Fran serves as the head of the pre-school at the First United Methodist Church in Deltona, Florida. Fran has invited us to participate in their retreat, "Becoming Real." This diverse group of women will included women from the ages of 14-90 and will consist of mothers and daughters, as well as women who attended pre-school under Fran and are now mothers. Teens will be in charge of the music, and their minister, Jackie, will conclude the day with a service where we will all come together after having shared in small groups throughout the day. Be sure and read next week's newsletter where we will give feedback on this tremendous opportunity.
There are two comments we often hear during our travels from people who are “wrestling” with their understanding:
1) “Our country was founded as a Christian nation, and we need to stick with what the Bible says.”
Well, you might be interested in some quotes by some of our founding fathers, who made sure that our Constitution included the separation of church and state. Other prominent people of that era also weighed in with their words.
"The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion."
"The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation." (Treaty of Tripoli (1797) drafted by Joel Barlow, U.S. Consul, and signed by John Adams)
"A just government has no need for the clergy or the church. The fruits of Christianity are pride, and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; and in both clergy and laity, superstition, bigotry and persecution."
"Here are twenty three ministers, of different denominations, and all of them are against me but three; and here are a great many prominent members of the Churches, a very large majority of whom are against me. Mr. Bateman, I am not a Christian - God knows I would be one - but I have carefully read the Bible, and I do not understand this book [ . and he drew from his bosom a pocket New Testament] .these men well know . that I am for freedom in the territories, freedom everywhere as far as the Constitution and the laws will permit, and that my opponents are for slavery. They know this, and yet, with this book in their hands, in the light of which human bondage can not live a moment, they are going to vote against me. I do not understand it at all." (quoted by Newton Bateman, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Illinois, "The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, From Washington to F.D.R" written by Franklin Stiner.)
"The bible is not my book, nor Christianity my religion."
"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."
"I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature."
"To penetrate and dissipate these clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education."
Click here if you want to read more of their quotes, as well as quotes from others.
The second comment we often hear is one of the seven arguments against gay marriage, cited by the authors of What God Has Joined Together.
2) “Same-sex ‘marriage’ is a contradiction in terms. Marriage is historically and by definition the union of a man and a woman.”
The authors respond, “This argument begs the question. Moreover, the understanding of marriage has changed repeatedly since the time when, for example, King David had eight wives and ten concubines.” Its definition has changed not only from polygamy to monogamy, but from arrangement to romantic choice, from male headship to mutuality, and from stigmatizing both interracial marriage and remarriage after divorce to accepting them. Marriage as we know it has undergone enormous changes even in the United States, both in terms of persons permitted to marry and in terms of what marriage signifies and requires.”
The term “gay marriage” is a misnomer in and of itself. We believe that it is imperative that we continue to speak of marriage equality for ALL people, inclusive of both same gender and mixed gender couples.
Our friend, Bill Carpenter, and I recently discovered that we both keep a word document of "sayings." He emailed me his, and I found the following I would like to share. There was no name credited to this quote.
“We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, and all are different colors ... but they all have to learn to live in the same box.”
To the above, I would add, "By doing so, we become capable of using our crayons to draw outside the box, which can only happen if we learn to co-exist."
And…more comments from friends about our journey:
“Great stuff! You two are a blessing to so many people. I am hearing so many shifts in peoples' awareness…I remember how Vicki and I felt the love that the two of you had for us and each other when we met and THAT is authentic. Please continue with the knowing that we think about you both and support your efforts.” (Alan & Vikci are two new friends from Dallas, Texas. We met them in the middle of the night when we were taking the bus from Heathrow to Gatwick (London), while we were attempting to fly home from Europe this summer. They had just married in Austria, so we all shared our respective wedding stories and celebrated our love and commitment.)
A question from Michelle:
Dear Dotti and Roby:
I have to say Thank you very much for the three bracelets we love wearing them.
We have a friend who says he has nothing wrong with GLBT he feels to each his/her own. But then he went on to say that it is just not right we were biologically made as a man and a women and that is the way we should live. No matter what David and I said to explain to him he still would not listen to us. So my friends what would you say to him? Please help me I really want to help him understand and maybe see the light.
Thank you again for my bracelet I will keep you up to date on everything that happens as I wear it.
Love and miss you both,
Your question, Michelle, is a common one. Thanks for writing! We are going to add this to our FAQ on our website.
Here is our response. We welcome others’ feedback. Please write us at dotti@GayIntoStraightAmerica.com or roby@GayIntoStraightAmerica.com
First of all, Michelle, we feel it is important to recognize that he has a right to his own beliefs. Though we all wish that people could understand and accept people’s differences, they don’t always take that journey. We suggest looking at #9 in “Ten Empowering Steps” in Becoming a Stand UP Speak OUT Wind Changer.
9. Recognize and accept that you, as one person, can change the world with your actions. Seek to emulate those who have shown the "power of one" throughout history. Seek to listen before speaking. Seek to understand before being understood. Seek to inquire rather than to defend.
So, in other words, know that you can make a difference and seek first to listen, understand, and inquire, rather than finding yourself locked in a situation where you feel that “No matter what David and I said to explain to him he still would not listen to us.” Rather than attempting to convince him by listening to what you have to say, ask him questions so that you are not putting him in the position of having to defend his beliefs. This will allow you to perhaps “see the deeper truth” of where he is coming from by asking, “Why do you feel that way?” or “What experiences have led you to feel that way?”
The important distinction, however, comes when he wants to use his beliefs to deny some people the legal rights and privileges accorded to other people. Our country has a history of doing that, as we have discussed in previous newsletters. It sounds like he states his beliefs in contradictions; i.e. He seems to apparently have nothing against GLBT and feels “to each his/her own,” while simultaneously saying “it’s not right since we were biologically made as a man and a woman, and that is the way we should live.” At any rate, perhaps you can encourage him not to use his beliefs as a means of denying people their legal rights. Remind him that even if he, today, had the belief that women should not be allowed to vote, he would be entitled to that belief, but it would not impact women’s right to vote. For many years, our country has used a variety of belief systems to keep others marginalized and powerless within our society. If he truly believes “to each his/her own,” he will not allow his belief (“that is the way we should live”) to impact the legal privileges and protections of others in our society. If he balks at that point, give him an example such as the following. A man might say, “I believe that women should not work outside the home.” That particular man’s belief, however, would not keep women from choosing to work outside the home. In the situation of GLBT persons, the beliefs of some people in our society are being used to keep legal rights and protections from being equally applied. People need to feel that their beliefs can remain intact, while understanding the distinction. When people feel they have to defend their beliefs, we often find ourselves at a stalemate.
Also, Michelle, we suggest that you go to this link and download PDF for talking points about Marriage Equality. We recommend this for others reading this newsletter as well.
Fear and love are contradictory.
Love is reckless in giving away,
oblivious as to what it gets in return.
Love wrestles with the world as with the self
and ultimately gains mastery over all other feelings.
My daily experience...is that every problem
lends itself to solution if we are determined
to make the law of truth and non-violence the law of life.
For truth and non-violence are, to me,
faces of the same coin.
The law of love will work,
just as the law of gravitation will work,
whether we accept it or not...The more I work at this law
the more I feel the delight in life,
the delight in the scheme of this universe.
It gives me a peace and a meaning of the mysteries of nature
that I have no power to describe.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi
"My Faith in Non-Violence."
May you each be reckless in the giving of your love this week!
The light in us honors the light in each of you! Dotti, Roby and Rylee Joy