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
The good news is…we had another great week! The bad news is…no pictures this week that we took. ): So, we relied on friends to supply a few. One is a picture that Jody Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG, sent us of his dog, Buddy. His partner, Stephen, also happens to be in the picture! They are both gorgeous! We received the pic after we had visited PFLAG National headquarters, but after we had already sent out our newsletter that week. We forgot to include it the following week. Keep reading and we will explain why few pictures, except those supplied by some friends, will be in this week’s newsletter.
Stephen & Buddy
Last Friday evening, we almost didn’t arrive on time for our speaking engagement with the Mainline Youth Alliance GLBT group in Philadelphia. Our car was broken into while Dotti was at IFGE (International Foundation for Gender Education), where she presented through Saturday. They were definitely looking for electronic equipment. Dotti’s papers inside her computer bag were strewn about the car. We were fortunate that we both had our computers with us.
Unfortunately, our small digital camera was in the Suburban, and they grabbed it. Another car had a computer stolen, so we were so happy we had our computers with us. Although we can’t replace our camera through insurance because it is less than our deductible, Roby discovered as she glanced at a TV show that we can take it as a tax write-off because of the loss. Hey, every little bit helps! Dotti waited on the police for over two hours, before leaving to pick up Roby and head to speak with the Mainline Youth Alliance. Todd and Stephen were the adults there for this wonderful group of young people. They were engaged about our journey, and many stayed afterwards to talk, ask questions, and share their stories. We wish that we had a picture, but Roby’s professional camera was back at the place where we were staying for the week.
On Saturday, April 8, Dotti again presented at IFGE. Roby called the police and made a report on the break-in. The policeman was Adrian Hospedale, a delightful African-American man who is also a minister. We had the most wonderful time of sharing together, and he was very interested in our GISA journey. At the end, he took Roby’s hand and said, “Honey, it don’t matter if you’re white, black, gay, straight, Christian or Muslim… we’re all God’s children and God loves all of us. I’ll be praying for you… now Lord bless you.” It seems that every time something happens that also makes us miss our speaking engagement, such as when our trailer tire blew out in Alabama as we were heading to Atlanta, there is an unbelievable connection that happens with someone, and they turn out to be a minister (or former minister) who is supportive of GLBT.
Speaking of IFGE, we now have six books on transgender on our website under “recommended books” beneath the resource icon.
Check them out!
A biography: Jennifer Finney Boylan. She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders New York: Broadway Books, 2003.
A biography: Donna Rose. Wrapped in Blue: A Journey of Discovery
A history: How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States . Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Cambridge, MA and London, England: Harvard University Press, 2002.
An introduction to transgender people and culture: Mildred L. Brown and Chloe Ann Roundsley. True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1996.
A wild ride through political thickets: Pat (now Patrick) Califia.
Also, if you are interested in other books we recommend, click here.
Since we mentioned Donna Rose's book, Wrapped in Blue: A Journey of Discovery, let us introduce Donna, who attended the IFGE conference. Dotti heard Donna speak on a panel at Southern Comfort this past September, but they had never met before. Our friends, Michele and Marla, asked us to join them for dinner on Thursday evening and several folks also joined us. Donna and Elizabeth, two trans women, were two of those people. It was great to spend time getting to know them, as well as sharing time with Michele and Marla. We mentioned in our last newsletter that Dr. Michele Angello is a sexologist who was featured as party of Larry King Live: TransAmerica and Transgender. Michele, an expert in the field of transgender, speaks eloquently in answering the questions asked by many in our society and framed by Larry King. We are working on getting that video online soon!
(L-R) Elizabeth & Donna at IFGE Conference
At the HRC dinner, Donna presented an award to Academy Award winning actress Jessica Lange for her portrayal of Irma Applewood in the HBO production of "Normal". Click here to see what she says about this opportunity.
(L-R) Donna Rose & Jessica Lange (from www.DonnaRose.com)
(L-R) Donna Rose with Rosie O'Donnell, HRC President Cheryl Jacques, and her partner (from www.DonnaRose.com)
Yes, education is the key, and that is why the International Foundation for Gender Education exists. We hope that you will consider purchasing books about transgender persons, if you are willing to learn more. They will be eye-opening for those who have no foundation for understanding this wonderful community of people!
While we are talking about education, one of the best educators is Jamison Green, whose book Becoming a Visible Man is one we recommended. He delivered the keynote speech at Southern Comfort in 2005. I was fortunate to be there to hear his courageous and "call to action" keynote. I told him I couldn't agree with him more, as he spoke about the importance of visibility in moving the transgender community forward. Click here to read. Jamison and his wife, Heidi, visited us in Bellingham last May and spoke at a workshop we presented, "Creating a Greater Understanding" (for marriage equality).
Dotti: Speaking of education, some terminology I recently discussed in our newsletter surfaced again today. I have repeatedly said that “gay lifestyle” is a misnomer and a term that is used to denigrate GLBT persons and allow people to distance themselves from us and our issues of equality and justice. “Gay lifestyle” represents a “thing they can push away” without putting a face to who we are. We do the same thing when our community inappropriately uses this term. We separate ourselves from who we are in our humanity, as if we are “something to be fixed” rather than a “human to celebrate.”
A news report today by WTVQ/Channel 36, (click here for story they did on GISA during our visit) exposed the negativity by administors who used this terminology. A young man, Jason Johnson, was expelled from Cumberland College in Kentucky. Administrators told him they don’t approve of his “gay lifestyle.” He was on the dean’s list at the college. I wonder if his lifestyle of being a brilliant student bothered them?
As a community, I firmly believe that we need to speak out when we hear this term “gay lifestyle” or “homosexual lifestyle” used. I plan to write a letter to the president of the university. If you missed what I shared about this term in a previous newsletter, please click here.
One night at dinner, a gentleman who is interested in the transgender community and was attending the conference, told about writing a “letter to the editor” about fully supporting the transgender community. Dotti asked him how his wife and family felt. He stopped and admitted that they didn’t know he was attending the conference. Dotti suggested to him that he might want to consider talking to his own family and friends, as well as writing letters to the editor, pointing out that personal relationships are the ones with which we have the most influence. The following day, she received this email.
Thank you for spending so much time with me on Thursday and Friday. I really appreciate it, because you so correctly (yet tactfully) pointed out the importance of being honest and authentic with myself, especially with my most important relationships. I haven’t figured out how or when to do it, but I will.
Dotti wrote back:
Glad that it rang true for you in terms of realizing that you desire to be honest and authentic with yourself. That, in and of itself, shows that you are close to being ready to share with your most important relationships. Otherwise, you would have defended your position.
Leaving Philadelphia on Saturday evening, we proceeded to New Jersey, meeting our hostess, Sue Schantz, for dinner before tucking in for the night at her home. As we shared about camera being stolen during the break-in of our car, Sue suddenly said, “Wait a minute. I will be right back.” She walked back into the room with this sleek Casio digital camera, and offered it to us. We were stunned. She insisted we take it, saying that she had two. It was brand new and had never been taken out of the box! What a gift! Thank you Sue!
Dotti: I have the most awesome clients who are supportive of our journey. They understand that our Scotty is my office away from home. One recently gifted me with podcasting equipment, so stay tuned as we learn how to use it and begin offering podcasts of our journey, as well as podcasts from GLBT Coach Dotti Berry! Another inquired as to whether or not our website allowed people to make a monthly ongoing contribution. Dotti explained that if people want to do that we can send a PayPal invoice on a certain day each month if they let us know how much monthly donation they choose to make. She immediately committed to $100 per month over the next year for our journey and to support us in our speaking in the future, saying she really believes in what we are doing. Those who want to contribute can click here. It has various levels of donation support, as well as a "create your own level" donation, where you can designate a monthly donation if you want.
Now, back to Sue! She has a huge Jacuzzi tub, and we were treated to the most wonderful bubblebath! Roby put in the soap, and then Sue turned on the jets. When Dotti looked around, the bubbles were rising out of the tub, and she tried to push them back in the tub. She then decided to just jump in. When Roby returned, she couldn’t resist a photo op as she saw the bubbles surrounding Dotti’s head! What a way to relax that hasn't been available! Yes, it is true. Our Scotty trailer does not have a Jacuzzi tub! (:
On Sunday morning, April 9, we spoke to one of the Sunday School classes at the United Methodist Church in Haddonfield, New Jersey. We had about 25 people in the class – some of whom were allies, some of whom were gay & lesbian, and some of whom were curious and wrestling.
George Morris, the pastor of Haddonfield United Methodist, and his wife, Kathy, had prior commitments in preparation for the church service for Palm Sunday. Both, however, made a point to personally meet us and welcome us before our talk began. Sue sent us a note the day after the service from someone who had attended our talk and had taken the time to write to the minister, George. Diane, to whom the person refers below, is the assistant pastor.
I just wanted to thank you, and strongly affirm, your welcoming of Dotti Berry and Roby Sapp to make a presentation this morning. Their sharing was moving and powerful. I am very glad that our congregation, with all its diverse opinions, remains open to thoughtful dialogue, even on the controversial subjects. I very much appreciated that Diane was present, and think you would have been moved to see the spirit of acceptance and love in the room this morning.
Sue took us out to the Country Club for Sunday Brunch after church with all the gay guys that all sit in the same pew together each Sunday.
(L-R) Sue, surrounded by her men from Haddonfield United Methodist Church!
Sue sent this picture to us. In our haste to get out the door, we had forgotten our new camera. The only guy who wasn't there on Sunday is the one with his arms around Sue.
We had an engaging conversation about how to welcome, affirm and celebrate GLBT persons within the church, and how to attract those who have thrown the baby out with the bath water due to prior treatment by religious institutions. There are no easy answers. As we explained to this wonderful group of committed lesbian and gay people at Haddonfield UMC, only becoming an officially reconciling church will create a climate where many will feel safe enough to attend. With the religion-based oppression that many in our community have faced, it will not be enough to simply think others will feel your church welcoming because you are there and feel it is.
It is like the passing of the Civil Rights Act. It took that legislation for our country to specifically speak to equality that includes African-Americans. Many in our country felt it was unnecessary and many didn’t agree. Sound familiar? Yes, our churches stand in the crossroads today.
Our message to Haddonfield UMC is this: If you want to attract more of the GLBT community, you have to do more. Why? Because what you are doing isn’t creating the results you want in terms of pulling in the larger and viable GLBT community in your area. What Haddonfield UMC is doing is fantastic in terms of the first steps to be taken. We applaud their efforts. It won’t, however, be enough to sustain bringing in a larger group GLBT people unless it evolves to the point where they are an officially reconciling church. Like the Civil Rights Act, you have to be willing to make it official, so that there is no misunderstanding on where your church stands, even if some find it unnecessary and some disagree.
After brunch with Sue and the fellas, we started the drive to Mary & Allen’s in Herndon, VA. We arrived there much later than anticipated, but their welcome was warm and worth the wait! A delicious gumbo was waiting for us on the stove when we arrived.
Several weeks prior to coming to Virginia, Mary gave us the name of a kennel close by where we could put Rylee while we flew to Atlanta to speak at GA Tech for the rally at the end of “Day of Silence.” We called, but the upcoming spring break meant they had been booked for several weeks. The kennel owner said she didn’t think anyone around would have any room for Rylee. We got some other suggestions from Judy Hoff (National PFLAG) and made reservations for Rylee at the one closest to Dulles airport, which was in Lindon, VA. When we gave that info to Mary & Allen, they informed us that on a Monday morning, it would take us hours to get to Lindon, and hours getting back, thus, putting us at risk for not getting our flight to Atlanta. We needed to come up with a more reasonable plan.
Allen got up at 5:30 Monday morning, took the dogs out, and started strategizing. Once the nearby Vet’s office opened at 7:00, Allen was on the phone trying to get Rylee a place to stay. Several calls later, still no room for Rylee. So, Allen decided that Rylee could stay with them, and they’d work it all out. Allen is a MD (Anesthesiologist). Mary is a Physical Therapist. Both are accomplished tri-athletes (who win a lot!), both are certified triathalon coaches, and as you can imagine, both are very busy people. To go out of their way to make sure Rylee would be cared for was very sacrificial and generous, especially since they were already caring for Eileen’s (their daughter) two pooches, Nytro and Harley.
Mary and Allen do their athletic activities together as a couple. They are not only an inspiration to us from a physical fitness standpoint, but their marriage is one that we strive to model ours after – one of mutual respect, honor, love, understanding, communication, patience, passion, romance, humor and loads of fun. When you look at Mary & Allen, you see two people who really love each other, and really love life together. Thank you, Mary & Allen, for your inspiration and example!
Mary & Al in Spain for a Triathalon
Let us brag on Allen a little more, and tell you that on Monday morning, not only did he call a Taxi to come pick us up at the house and take us to the Airport, he insisted on paying for the cab fare both ways!
At the airport, we were on a Delta buddy pass which we were able to purchase for a reduced rate thanks to our friend, Cindy Hall! Thanks Cin! This isn’t the first time she has allowed us to purchase a buddy pass, and we appreciate her support! A buddy pass means you are on standby status. We didn’t get on the first two flights, but struck gold the third time!
When we arrived in Atlanta, we went to the window to purchase tokens to take Marta, the mass transportation system in Atlanta. The woman at the window asked if we were sisters. Roby said, “No, we are married.” Imagine this African-American woman with this wonderful thick Georgia accent as she exclaimed:
You’re MA-rried?! Hey, these two women are MA-rried! This came through over the loud speaker through which she spoke. We couldn’t help but laugh. She kept repeating it over and over, looking back to people in the booth each time, saying
“These two women are MA-rried!” We chuckled and shared briefly shared with her that our legal marriage in Oregon had been voided a year later in Oregon.
On Tuesday, we met Sarabrynn at 2 p.m. for a tour of the student center and their office. Sarabrynn is amazing. She is an ally who started the GSA (Gay/Straight Alliance) at her high school in Kennesaw. Only a freshman at Georgia Tech, she immediately jumped in with organizing the “Day of Silence” activities. Students wore badges around their neck that said:
I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice and discrimination. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today.
What are you doing to end the silence?
“Breaking the Silence” Rally: 4 p.m. @ the Campanile (outside the student center)
They had a banner with a diverse group of students with red tape over their mouths. On the back of the badges they wore, there was a red piece of tape on the badge on the back. After the rally, we meet Matt, who told us he had first heard us speak at PFLAG Atlanta in December. He is actually the person who had told Sarabrynn about us, which led to their invitation for us to speak. Thank you Matt!!
We were walking through the student center, when a man who we discovered to be Bart, asked us about our shirts as he sat behind a table with a sign that read, “Truth or Campus Lies?”. At first, we thought he was part of the “Day of Silence” table, because just 10 minutes before, that is where the people had been sitting. Now, however, Bart sat behind the table, offering God’s salvation to people who would listen. Bart wanted to debate. We were hurrying to meet Sarabrynn back at the office before speaking. Bart is in that minority that has chosen to be “uninformable” at this point. Remember, it doesn’t mean that he will stay there, but where he currently has chosen to reside. We had left our jackets in Sarabrynn’s office and were without a business card. Bart agreed to take a rainbow wristband so that he could access our website, and said he wanted to continue the conversation. We will see what happens. We later discovered that he had come up and insisted that the “Day of Silence” table move since that is the location he likes to have each Tuesday when he comes to Georgia Tech. Bart is a Georgia Tech graduate from 1986.
At 4 p.m, we addressed students and faculty as they gathered outdoors at seats in front of a fountain. Sarabrynn asked us to officially break the silence. Dotti decided that she would encourage them to yell and scream to “welcome her home” since Atlanta is where she was reared. Roby began the countdown at 10, while Dotti began her encouragement. After the talk, we went to dinner with five of the students. They decided to take us to the “most gay” restaurant in town, a great little pub with outdoor seating called “Joe’s on Jupiter.” We heard their coming out stories and how that has impacted their lives. One man’s disclosure has caused his parents to withdraw funding of anything but his specific school expenses. The others are fortunate in that their parents are supportive of them. It makes a difference.
Before flying back to DC, we rode MARTA over to East Point, to visit Dotti’s mom. We hadn’t seen her since December 19th, when we left when she said that we could stay only if we removed the signs on our car. Dotti has been calling her each week. We are committed to staying in our families lives because we may be their last opportunity to grow and move to a new understanding.
When we returned to Mary & Allen’s home in VA, we were welcomed back by two loving humans and three excited dogs. Rylee greeted us like a little princess, with pink bows in her ears and an Easter bandana! Mary said she awoke during the night and came up with the idea that she would take Rylee to the salon for a “Day of Beauty” as a treat for Rylee and a gift to us. And what a gift it was! Rylee was pampered and fussed over, got her hair washed and cut, her nails done, her ears cleaned & pulled, and her teeth brushed. Since we are on a strict budget, Roby does the family grooming. Dotti’s hair is easy, but to groom Rylee properly, it takes at least four hours, and it’s not possible to do such in the Scotty. Needless to say, we were so grateful for such a generous, thoughtful and creative gift. Thanks, Mary & Allen… You two are treasures!
Speaking of treasures, we lost one of our own recently. Bob Hill, a great Soulforce ally, passed away.
Soulforce Expresses Sadness at the Death of our Friend, Bob Hill
We are deeply saddened to inform you that Robert "Bob" Hill passed away on Sunday, April 2 at his family's home in Port Orchard, Washington.
Bob and Jeaneane have a gay son and have been volunteering with Soulforce since the beginning. Jeaneane has made by hand the ceramic crosses and pins that have become part of our Soulforce trademark, creating over 25,000 crosses over the last 7 years. Bob & Jeaneane celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary with Soulforce in St. Louis, with Jeaneane getting arrested inside the Southern Baptist Convention. She commented that it would be an anniversary she would never forget.
In a letter to a Southern Baptist leader, Bob wrote about how he and Jeaneane were caught offguard by their son's coming out in 1993 and how it sent them on a journey.
I think our epiphany was when we attended worship service at the local Metropolitan Community Church, a GLBT Christian community. As members of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) we had been invited to a potluck and a worship service where we were going to be honored for our work in affirming all people. This worship service took place in a rundown community hall. The ceiling was stained and the lighting was dim. The church was filled with wonderful songs and powerful prayers. Gay couples worshipped and took communion together. It was Spirit filled. We participated in wonder and joy. Worship was happening in that humble place among humble people worshipping God. When we left we turned to each other and declared that if God was not there that day how could he be anywhere. We both decided that we would return to our own Presbyterian church and after three years of hiding our secret we would declare God's love and our love for our gay son.
Bob and Jeaneane joined their son, Troy, in Colorado Springs at our Focus on the Family action in May, 2005. We will all miss Bob's beautiful smile and gentle nature and we will hold Jeaneane and her family in our prayers.
In closing, we share the following letter to the editor, March 26, 2006 on 365gay.com:
“Humanity has done its reproductive duty, now lets take a little break and a big step back to see what we’ve done and where it’s going. Quality, not quantity, is what the world needs today. Gay or straight, responsible and loving people who wish to nurture the unwanted and misfortuned are clearly good stewards and should be honored, not denied nor demonized. The good book gives us lots of good advice for life centuries ago, much of which is still applicable today. But I believe that we can all agree that some things just need to be scratched/sidelined for our modern survival and well-being. The world is not flat. We are smarter now, more culturally diverse and of multi-faiths. No one’s faith can possibly be 100-percent correct, so therefore, it should never be imposed on others, anytime, anywhere, EVER. Ancient barbaric principles have no place in a modern, civilized society."