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
hroughout our journey, we have discovered several things:
* Above all else, people want to connect with one another.
* Transgender people continue to be an inspiration to us. Transgender couples often communicate through the most complex issues, evolving into relationships more empowered than before. Thank you! And blessings to our wonderful transgender friend, Simone, who is currently in Thailand. We wish you success with your GRS (Gender Reassignment Surgery). I often call it GAS (Gender Affirmation Surgery). Thanks, Barb, for being by her side.
* We would take up the same amount of space in a bed, whether we are sleeping in our bed in our Scotty trailer, or sleeping n a bed in a million dollar home.* We don’t need a hot shower EVERY day (especially when it is cold weather and takes 45 minutes to heat the water for our Scotty!)
* The greatest “fear & wrestling” with GLBTA lies within our GLBTA community.
* Awareness and engaging one another is the key to eradicating both racism and homophobia, which continue to play a part in the lives of all Americans. We must be aware of the last internal vestiges in order to move beyond the effects of both. We remind ourselves that we cannot hate someone whose story we know.
Thoughts…The movable middle does not give equality for GLBT much thought, and that is often our problem. Our GLBT community does give equality for GLBT lots of thought, and that is the problem.
What do we mean by the above statement? We need action in both cases, not just “thought.” Energy follows thought. If our action is to be empowering, it must be preceded by thoughts that are loving, not fearful. It isn’t that the movable middle doesn’t care. We find that they do when they clearly understand the rights and privileges we don’t have. Lack of understanding and being informed thwarts becoming more committed. GLBTA give lots of thought to equality, but fear often keeps us from taking action such as talking openly to our families, co-workers, and church members. GLBTA often talk as if we can’t understand why people are “so against us.” The majority aren’t. They simply don’t understand. Once they do, this “movable middle” moves. They spring into action. One suggestion…considers living your life like playing a game of chess. When you move, someone else has to move. Otherwise the game is over before it ever begins. No action in any way creates a stuck place.
If your move, your action, creates confusion and chaos for the other person, leaving them thinking “What move do I take now?” that’s OK. After all, in the game of chess, you don’t make their move for them, no matter how much you love them. You allow them to make their own choice, just as you have made yours. That is what creates the positive energy of the game. Trust the process.
On February 9, we arrived around 10 a.m. at Koinonia Community near Americus, GA. Not knowing the relationship of Koinonia to Habitat for Humanity is analogous to not knowing the relationship of Jackie Kennedy to Caroline and John Kennedy. Yes, Koinonia gave birth to Habitat for Humanity. Knowing about this important birthplace, Koinonia, is important because, without it, millions of lives would not be touched.
After spending only a day and a half there, there is no doubt in our mind that this stop was as important as any we will make on our trip. We give thanks to Ann, one of the hospitality directors, who contacted us with an open arms invitation to visit and speak. Watching the movie about the history of Koinonia sent chills down our spines. Clarence Jordan, a Southern Baptist Minister and author of “Cotton Patch Gospels,” founded the community. On our first day, after Ann’s tour of the farm, we shared lunch with the community in the dining room,
and announced that we would be sharing about our journey in the evening. In the afternoon, we pruned grape vines with Matt, a great guy from Minnesota. Rylee Joy really helped us!
The church that Clarence and his family attended, before being forced out.
A man ahead of his time, Clarence Jordan insisted back in the 40’s that blacks and whites come together in community, eating, working, playing, and worshipping side by side. What an amazing story of equality and justice. This is a man who clearly trusted the process of life, yet never lived to see the fruits of how many lives he touched, dying at the age of 57 from a heart attack. Our history books miss a great opportunity to educate us about the impact of this community that pre-dated the civil rights movement in the south. Fifteen years before Martin Luther King’s time, this community was setting a precedent for relationsi between races who had been segregated. That created an environment which caused them to be physically and verbally attacked on numerous occasions, as people accused them of being evil people and Communists. The reality is that they were living out the principles of Jesus, rather than talking about them. That threatened many in the surrounding Christian community, dotted with Southern Baptist Churches. The Ku Klux Klan regularly bombed and torched their buildings, shooting at both children and adults. That this community has continued to exist for over six decades is a testament to the non-violent principles and love and compassion of those involved. Clarence Jordan was a visionary, whose grasp of Greek, helped him to discern the Bible in ways to which people were unaccustomed. Rather than using the Bible to control and manipulate people, Clarence understood that its intent is to bring together of diversity together. That is what led to his writing of the Cotton Patch Gospels. The commitment of the community is:
- Treat all human beings with dignity and justice
- Choose love over violence.
- Share all possessions and live simply.
- Be stewards of the land and its natural resources
Their commitment rings true with the universal principles which guide our life:
- We are all connected.
- Who we are is enough.
- There are enough resources of everything in the universe.
- Non-judgement is essential.
There was a serendipitous event that happened before we spoke that evening. We were reading in our book, If Grace is True, having a few minutes to relax before dinner. Roby picked up the book, and begin to read:
"The Southern Baptist preacher Clarence Jordan wrote..."
We suddenly looked at one another. Could this possibly be the same Clarence Jordan? Indeed, it was!
We continued reading what Clarence wrote, shared in this book we were reading.
“I just cannot stick my God into a little time-space relationship here, hindered and always working against the impending physical death…Maybe God is in hot pursuit of us; we’ve been thinking of giving our heart to Christ. We’re thinking so hard on it we’re driving along and we don’t hear the whistle of a freight train. And bam…it just smashes us to pieces. And God said, “You know, I almost had him. That freight train beat me to him.” What kind of God is that? A God whose purposes can be voided by a freight train? I can’t fit that in.”
Phillip Gully and James Mulholland in their book, If Grace is True, reply
“Neither can I.”
All this talk about God…why is the conversation important? Whether you are a person of faith or not, it is important to understand that the fabric of God is being used as a weapon to diminish and attack our community by many (not all) in religious circles. Spritually violent teachings create an overall culture that leads to internal homophobia, creating shame within.
At Koinonia, about 20 people attended our informal sharing time after supper. It was the first time anyone had given a presentation on GLBT issues. Everyone was so supportive and very interested in our journey and our work for equality.
Ann asked what the community could to better to make sure GLBT people feel included and welcome. Dotti shared with the group that although it’s wonderful they mention “sexual orientation” on their website, it would be more inclusive if they added “gender identity and gender expression.” We felt so supported and celebrated by this amazing group of diverse people. Visit their website, Koinonia Partners. Consider a visit there in the future, and perhaps contributing to a place that are meant so much to our society in pointing the way toward justice and equality for ALL.
Before leaving Koinonia the next day, we spent our morning having conversations with different people and inviting visitors into our Scotty.
Many people were so interested in how we are living in a 13.5 ft. trailer! We enjoyed lunch with the community before we packed up and left, headed for Columbia, SC. Before we left the area, we stopped in Americus, and toured the Habitat for Humanity Center. Their international village is an amazing visual on substandard housing around the world. Our Scotty looks like a palace compared to it. After viewing the unbelievable housing that serves as “home” for many people, we were then able to view homes in these areas can be built for anywhere from $2500 to $10,000.
A midnight arrival in Columbia, SC…Dotti was excited. We were staying at the home of Donna and Tammy. Donna Martin was one of her former basketball players at the University of Kentucky, who she had not seen in over 20 years.
Donna & Dotti
The next day, we slept in a little later and were then treated to Donna & Tammy’s favorite Greek restaurant. Tammy then went to work at the newspaper (where she is the national news editor) and Donna took us to Panera Bread so we would pull in and send out some emails. In the evening, we went out to dinner with their friend, Donna, and Candace & Wanda Chellew-Hodge. Candace, the founder and creator of Whosoever.org, an Associate Pastor of Garden of Grace United Church, invited us to speak in Columbia.
(L-R) Tammy, Donna, Rylee, Roby, Dotti, Candace, Wanda
On Sunday, Dotti joined Pastor Andy Sidden and offered part of the sermon on Extravagant Hospitality at Garden of Grace United Church in Columbia, SC. We enjoyed meeting Kevin, Andy’s partner. They have been together over 20 years. After the service, we stayed after with a group of people and shared stories about our journey. We appreciated their generous love offering.
At 3:00, we joined several others for a press conference at the Unitarian Church. A marriage amendment will be on the ballot in Nov. 2006, so there were ministers and others standing up against it. Rev. Tom Summers, a retired Methodist Minister, was one of those people, giving an eloquent speech in support of GLBT rights, protections and marriage equality. His wife, Marilyn, is equally supportive. They have a gay nephew (Marilyn’s sister’s son). Sadly, his parents have virtually declared him dead. Marilyn talks to him several times a week.
(L-R) Roby, Tom & Dotti
Leaving Columbia, we drove to Corbin, KY to spend the night with Aunt Dot & Uncle John. We had dinner with them, and then watched the Westminster Dog Show. Dotti engaged with Aunt Dot about our journey and our lives. Aunt Dot is interested in our lives, and what we are doing, asking questions about where we were going and people we were meeting. She inquired into the significance of our rainbow wristbands, giving us an opportunity to share stories about people who have accepted them along our journey as we engage in creating authentic connections.
(L-R) Dotti, Aunt Dot, Uncle John
The following day, our plans were to go by and see Uncle Bill before traveling on to Dayton Ohio, where we were speaking on Valentine’s Day. Uncle Bill lives in the same home where he, Dot, and Marilu (Dotti’s Mom) grew up. Dotti’s grandmother had an old home that Uncle Bill has meticulously maintained and Dotti wanted to share it with her. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Uncle Bill was out walking the night before and fell on the ice and hurt his arm. At 4 a.m., in severe pain, he drove himself to the hospital. We visited him at the hospital instead. When we left Aunt Dot’s and Uncle John’s, Roby backed out of the driveway, making a sharp turn to avoid John’s car. What she didn’t know was that the grass was soaking wet and muddy, therefore, we got stuck in the mud, and proceeded to jackknife the trailer in an effort to get the Suburban un-stuck. We ended up having to unhook the trailer, put the wheel on, and push the trailer around and re-hook it back up. A wonderful guy, Mike, who used to be Uncle John’s neighbor years ago, was going by and stopped and helped us. This took an extra hour. The good part is that we arrived in Dayton with about 15 minutes to spare before our presentation!
As we hurriedly got ready to go inside, we heard a knock on our trailer door. To our delight and surprise, it was Mary & Teresa, who we met at Pearl’s in Key West. They drove from Cincinnati to hear us and support us. They had just launched their company, Angel Whispers Inspirational Cookie, and brought us a beautiful package. The “inspiration” with Roby’s cookie said, “Regardless of the question, love is the answer.” (Daniel Thurson) With “We vow to change the world through the expression of our love,” being the fuel beneath our journey, what could have been more perfect? Dotti’s inspirational quote was, “Some people add so much beauty to being human.” (Kobi Yamada). Be sure and check out their website Angel Whispers Cookie. (coming soon if not online yet)
Angel Whispers Inspiration Cookies brought to us by Teresa & Mary
When Brian, President of PFLAG Dayton, introduced us, he shared a letter he had received that day.
It was in a pink envelope and the postmark was from Michigan. Looking at it, one might think they had just received a beautiful card on Valentine’s Day. The contents betrayed the beauty of the outside, saying:
If you are not already aware, let me tell you about the story of two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah. They were destroyed because of the wickedness of their inhabitants. The men wanted men, and not women. Shortly after, the two cities were destroyed by fire and brimstone. So-
You can say all you want that your lifestyle is okay, But because of this belief, two cities aren't here today. Stop blaming God for what you are, for that is what you choose to be. But ask Him for forgiveness, for He loves you abundantly. Time is drawing nigh, my friend; the decision is up to you. For God surely wants your soul, but He despises that sin you do.
That provided a perfect segue into our PFLAG Dayton talk. Dotti shared just a bit of her comments at Garden of Grace United.
“Jesus was known for his radical and extravagant hospitality. You know the sad part? In today’s culture, not only would Jesus probably not be allowed through the doors of many churches where they are praising his name, but he also probably would not be asked to light the Olympic torch.
Why? The Olympics are supposed to be 'politics free.' Jesus wasn’t. Take a trip back through history. Did Jesus mind confronting injustice? Did Jesus worry about whether or not the “timing” was right? Was Jesus afraid to breach the status quo? Did Jesus mind breaking unjust rules and laws? No, Jesus was committed to justice and equality for all, loving those deemed untouchable and unlovable by society.
Let’s say that Jesus was invited to light the Olympic torch after all. Can’t you see the newspaper headlines?
‘Jesus, who lit the Olympic torch to open the games last night, stunned the world when he boldly detailed the injustices in each and every participating country. Jesus specifically cited the United States, whose lip service of insuring human rights for others, conflicts with its own record of abuses against GLBT persons.
Media representatives for each country have flatly denied the accusations of Jesus. For the first time in history of the Olympics, all participating countries issued a joint statement, vigorously denying these charges, and expressing, 'The Olympics is no time for politics. We are here to celebrate the athletes and offer extravagant hospitality to each person. The Olympic committee convened a special meeting last night, and we want to assure you that new policies are being put in place to avoid this in the future. Rest assured that Jesus will never again be invited to be a part of the Olympics, and we apologize for his remarks.'
Normally, this is the time where the flogged person who has just been rebuked gets up and apologizes for having said their remarks. Jesus refuses their demands. He is walking through the streets mingling and talking with the homeless, the poor, and the marginalized. The crowd hangs on his every word. By the end of the day there are more people listening to him than are in the Olympic stadium watching the games.
And the churches? The headline tells the story. 'Major denominations rescind their offer for Jesus to speak after hearing about the Olympic fiasco.' They do, however, leave the door cracked by saying, 'If Jesus comes again, we might reconsider. We will have to wait and assess the situation at that time.' "
Dotti & Roby speaking at PFLAG Dayton
We continued, talking about our journey and what we have experienced, speaking to a great group of approximately 50 people. The hospitality was AWESOME and everyone received our message with interest and intrigue. The comments from folks were very encouraging, and they thanked us, saying they felt very inspired. PFLAG groups around the country have been wonderful with their gracious honorariums. Your support is vital to our journey.
(L-R) Nancy, Dan, Dotti & Roby
We went out to eat afterward with Mary & Teresa, Dan & Nancy (Dan is the former PFLAG Dayton President and was just elected to the national PFLAG Board) and Brian (current President.). Dan & Nancy offer us great hospitality at their home, with a wonderful breakfast the next morning.
Nancy & Dan have one of the most diverse families we have ever seen. They are so proud of their children, and work tirelessly for GLBT equality and freedom.
We love being with parents like these… it gives us hope that one day our own parents/families may come to a new understanding.
Our stay in Dayton was wonderful, but short, as we had committed to a 2:00 pm interview with Courier Journal in Louisville, our first from inside the Scotty! We then traveled to Lexington, stopping off to eat at Jalapeno’s, Dotti’s favorite Mexican restaurant where she and friends often ate on Friday nights when she lived in Lexington. Shortly after arriving at the home of Jamie McDaniel and Chris, where we will stay for several days, two neighborhood kids (age 14) arrived at the door. They had come over earlier to talk to Jamie, and Jamie told them we would be arriving soon and to come back. The girl is lesbian, and her friend (the boy) is an ally. We had a good time talking with them. The girl has some questions about being lesbian, and states that her older sister (age 22) “doesn’t agree with me at all,” and quotes Bible verses in an effort to convince her that homosexuality is a sin. The kids asked, “How long are you all going to be here?” We said, “Three days.” They said, “Can we come back?” We told them they most certainly could. I wonder what my life would have been like, and how different it may have been, had I found someone to talk to, someone to tell I’m gay at the age of my discovery (18). Maybe I wouldn’t have felt the need to hide in the closet for 18 years. And yet maybe those years were a necessary part of my journey.
An example of the kinds of emails we receive?
“I think I saw the three of you at a car wash today 2-15-06 in Beavercreek, Ohio. I was in the next "lazy" line for the automatic one, I saw the two of you and the bikes with the duct tape helping to cover them on the back of the camper. I sort of got a glance at your sign on the truck, I wanted to stop and chat, but I had a car right behind me leaving the other bay at the same time. I HOPE things are going well for you and that people are treating you well.”
“Saw y'all at Jalapeno's last night. Hope your visit in Lexington went well. And, good luck as your journey continues!”
Another email is one we received after our last newsletter, coming from two wonderful newlyweds and people of faith we met while flying back from Germany this summer.
"Great story. Vicki and I just went and saw Brokeback Mountain for the first time today. It was an extremely moving film. It 'possifidies' the stand we have had for so long about choice and public perception. One man that is working out at the same senior citizen gym that we attend said that he will no see the film because it 'contributes to that choice of life style which the Bible has deemed abominable.' Both Vicki and I cried through out the movie, recognizing that choice comes from the soul as well as from emotions and also from the physical peers-ship in which we live.
You have opened our minds to accept all which comes to us. Please continue to work on those that 'choose' to separate us from you. We are all one.'
Our bottom line? We say daily, "Life doesn't get much better than this!" We are truly blessed with experiences that defy what any and every fear would make anyone think is possible. Creating life through the radical expression of love, regardless of the consequences, is both a joy and a privilege.
We travel back to Louisville on Sunday to speak at PFLAG there!
Thank you for being on this journey with us!
The light in us honors the light in you,
Two women and a poodle, Dotti, Roby & Rylee Joy