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
News Update!! Rylee Joy is excited about heading into home territory, the Pacific Northwest, for speaking at PFLAG NW Conference. It will be great for us to hook up with Judy Hoff and Jody Huckaby from PFLAG national, as well as our friend, Jamison Green. All are presenting at the conference. Additionally, it will be our first time to finally meet Robert Minor, whose website www.FairnessProject.org is great! Sign up for his thought provoking newsletter!
Rylee Joy said she wasn’t into writing a sermon for Easter, but she thought it was time for a couple of new lessons. Click here to read her 6th and 7th ones of the journey.
Yep, it was Rylee Joy taking on the rest of the team!
We have also updated our FAQ. Click here to see what people are asking along the journey!
Additionally, click here to view some new pics added to our “great pics” section. Roby did a fantastic job with some pictures of the Washington Monument at night.
Speaking of Easter, we acknowledge that it is a religious holiday that was celebrated last week by some people. Whether you are a person of faith or not, or whether you are a person of a different faith, one cannot deny that “toxic religion” is having a major impact on our GLBT community. With spring in the air, there’s no better time to talk about renewal and transformation of our human connections.
Faith…too much of it, lack of it, how it is used, what type it is…are all big issues in our country today. How can it be that “faith” is used to both oppress and inspire people? It reminds us of money. An old saying that most of us have heard is, “Money is the root of all evil.” The reality is that isn’t true. How money is used can either be for good or wrong. Money can either imprison or empower people and/or situations. Faith offers the same opportunity.
Dotti: GLBT people often worry about groups of religious people who tell them they are an abomination and that they are “going to hell.” If your faith and spiritual essence is important to you, as mine is, why would you believe humans over God, or the Divine Spirit? If others thinking I am “going to hell” can affect my relationship with God, then my relationship with God is in trouble. It is similar to the scenario with mixed gender couples who feel that “gay marriage” harms the institution of marriage. (I put in quotes because it is a misnomer…no such thing exists…marriage equality for all people is our desire). I feel that if my being married to Roby threatens the marriage relationship of a mixed gender couple, then their marriage is already in trouble.
So, my faith means that my spiritual essence is at the core of who I am. And the core of my belief is that we are all interconnected, even those with whom I do not agree. That is why I cannot give up hope on people’s potential to move from harping on people’s differences and using them to separate from one another to embracing people’s differences and using them to empower one another.
Our journey traveling west includes lots of writing, as well as listening to radio and books on tape. We often listen to radio shows featuring those who think differently than us. It is one of the best ways to learn how others think, as well as why they think the way they do. Listening also enables us to eventually de-sensitize ourselves from the triggers that some of their language might hold for us. Many years ago, I didn’t choose to find a particular program on day, but just came across it on TV. I sat, dumbfounded, as I watched Pat Roberson, an evangelical preacher, spilling untruths and violently talking against gay people He ended by saying, “I need your help. Please call with a contribution.” Well, I was so angry that I called the number and said, “I was listening and heard that you need help.” They replied, ‘Yes, we do.” I then screamed at the top of my lungs, “YOU NEED MORE HELP THAN YOU REALIZE.” I ranted about the inaccurate information they had shared about gay people. Now, what do you think? Did I change their thinking or “help” in any way? We know the answer to that. No. Neither did I feel the least bit empowered. In fact, I felt rather foolish. Why was I triggered? I still had hidden parts inside of me that needed healing; however, it could only be healed through my own self acceptance, not Pat Robertson’s. I recognized I had to develop new tools for dealing with these situations.
On Monday, we were listening to Shawn Hannity (Fox News). His radio show featured Shirley Phelps, daughter of Fred Phelps, the “minister” of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. If you have never seen their website, God Hates Fags, you will find it both hard to believe and difficult to peruse. They have been known for picketing the funerals of gay people, most notably Matthew Shepard, as well as the events where Soulforce vigils. Until recently, most of America did not care about the activities of Fred Phelps. The churches who did hear of him often distanced themselves from Fred and his followers, citing how different they are from Fred. The truth is that many of them are not. Why do we say that? Fred Phelps and his “church members” look horrific as they hold their signs of gay people burning in hell. Other churches look “good” as they recite their mantra “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Both, however, have the same bottom line, believing that gay people are an abomination and will burn in hell. So we say to Fred and the churches with this belief, “If your bottom line isn’t different, we don’t care how pretty your present it.” Make no mistake about it. At least a person knows where Fred Phelps stands. A person might think the others actually care about the GLBT community. When a church truly cares about the GLBT community, they aren’t afraid to be known as a church which welcomes, embraces, and celebrates us.
Fred Phelps is now alarming people. His big mistake? He and his followers are now picketing the funerals of our military people who have lost their lives in the Iraq war. Phelps says that America is being punished for being “fag enablers.” They say that God is using the death of these military folks to connect the dots and help us understand how our nation must change. A flurry of laws in states across our nation are now being passed so that Phelps cannot picket close to these funerals. We are not saying this isn’t a good idea. The question is, “Where was the outrage when Phelps and his followers were picketing the funerals of gay people these past few years? “ The answer, “There was none.” No one was outraged. No laws were passed. It speaks for itself.
How different are Fred Phelps/Shirley Phelps with their screeching and violent rhetoric about God and the same being spouted by Zacarias Moussaoui during his trial as we hear how they flew the planes into buildings and into the ground on 9/11, shouting, “Praises to Allah” until the last breath. Extremism is extremism, and it sometimes parades in the name of God, and sometimes in the name of Allah. As with Phelps and some churches, there is really no difference. The bottom line of Phelps and them is the same, and it isn’t a pretty sight.
Shawn’s interview with Shirley was one where both attempted to talk over one another. It offered a perfect example of why we don’t debate scripture. Both slung arrows at one another. The interview was a lose/lose situation. Nothing was accomplished. That is why it is going to take the movable middle in our country to be the bridge.
Dotti’s first encounter with Phelps was in Lynchburg in 1999. As she drove in the First Christian Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, where the first-ever Soulforce training was going to take place, there stood Phelps and his followers with their signs.
Shirley and Dotti actually emailed at one point. Shirley emailed her first, calling Dotti “little miss swine” (among other names). Dotti wrote back and said, “Isn’t the internet wonderful? If not for the internet, we wouldn’t have met.” Dotti asked Shirley about her family and Shirley wrote back about them. Once Shirley realized, however, that she was in dialogue with Dotti, she immediately cut off the communication.
Thank goodness we don’t listen only to these type of radio shows! (: We have great books on tape! One of those is Home to Harmony by Philip Gulley, author of the best selling Front Porch Tales. The Front Porch Tales were originally carried in all the Christian bookstores. Things are different since he and Jim Mulholland wrote If Grace is True, and If God is Love. Those books caused Phil to be dropped by publisher Multnomah Press. When we heard that, we realized that he and Dotti have something else in common. Multnomah threatened to sue Dotti one time, for offering Bruce Wilkinson’s book, Prayer of Jabez, on a website she had (Dotti was a distributor of the book, a fact they failed to note before contacting her). Dotti made the HUGE error (according to Bruce Wilkinson and Multnomah Press) of claiming that we are all God’s children, including but not limited to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. They obviously didn’t see the sale of their book on such a website as a plus! After having a lawyer tell her that it would take $10,000 to fight the potential lawsuit, but that she could win, Dotti decided on another approach. She asked for a meeting with Bruce Wilkinson. She had Mary Lou and Bob Wallner, who lost their lesbian daughter to suicide, as well as Patti and Jeff Elllis, who have a gay son, lined up for the meeting. By the way, their website is great! Initially, Bruce agreed to the meeting. Dotti always feels that a face-to-face opportunity, where people can share their stories, has the greatest opportunity to make an impact. In the end, Bruce went back on his agreement. Dotti then issued a press release to newspapers around the country, to point out that there was a discrepancy between what Bruce was writing in his book, and his actions. Shirley Phelps saw one of those articles, and that is when she emailed Dotti.
Phil with son, Spencer
Speaking of Phil Gulley, we had the pleasure of being in the Indianapolis area this week-end, and pulled into their driveway about 10 p.m. Saturday. We all went to the Quaker Meeting the next day, where Phil offered an Easter sermon that is a must read, whether you are a person of faith or not. Click here
. Its simple acceptance of people, and the opportunity that kind of spirit offers, is a message that could benefit all of us. We also finally had the opportunity to meet his wife, Joan, and their sons, Spencer and Sam. Joan had also invited us to the family gathering and dinner later that day, and we gladly accepted. What a spirited family. Additionally, we were able to meet Phil’s brother, David, and his partner, Ken, who have been together for 17 years. When Phil saw our tattered copy of “If Grace is True” with its half-torn cover lying on the counter in our Scotty, he came out with a handful of books and tapes. Our new hard copies of If Grace is True and If God is Love will give us the opportunity to give away our paperbacks to someone along our journey. Although we were unable to visit Jim Mulholland’s Quaker Meeting on Easter Sunday, since the two different meetings are at the same time in Indianapolis, we did receive a copy of his sermon. Both sermons will leave you thankful that some ministers are beginning to understand the truly inclusive nature of the original message of Jesus, which is the interconnectedness of all of us. Click here to read
Gulley Easter - Jim with his arm around Dotti - Joan, his wife, in front of him
Joan Gully with baby Christian (newborn of neighbors)
Others are getting it too! Marilyn Hilton, a Christian author, when asked about the gay families at the Easter Egg Roll at the White House (they were wearing rainbow leis) said “good for them.” She was there with her three children, and said the anti-gay protestors don’t reflect the views of all Christians. “This is America.” she said. “People should be allowed to live freely.” We say, “Amen!”
Speaking of faith, we just heard from Jimmy Creech, executive director of Faith in America, that their website has just gone live. Don’t miss this website! When we visited Jimmy and his wife, Chris, in February, we saw some of the ads that Faith in America is going to be putting into medium and small markets in cities across the United Sates. Below is part of one.
Less than 200 years ago, some in positions of authority used their interpretations of Scriptures to say that Native Americans were uncivilized savages.
Less than 150 years ago, some in positions of authority used their interpretations of Scriptures to say that slavery should be legal.
Less than 100 years ago, some in positions of authority used their interpretations of Scriptures to say that women should not have the right to vote.
Less than 50 years ago, some in positions of authority used their interpretations of Scriptures to say that interracial marriages were immoral.
Folks, it is our GLBT community that is being denigrated today. History will repeat itself unless we all stand up and speak out for equality and justice.
Check out some of other the ads they are going to run.
As we mentioned, Dotti was writing as we traveled through Iowa and Nebraska this week. During those long stretches, Focus on the Family came on the radio. James Dobson started out talking about bisexual and transgender persons. He said, “bisexual people have multiple partners, but at least two different partners at any one time, and they are promiscuous.” It leaves Dotti wondering where the “other partners” have been hiding that she is being with! (:
The gentleman on the show with him later said, “I can’t imagine my 7 year old coming home and saying how transsexuals are helping our country.” Part of the problem with Dobson and Focus on the Family is that there is money being raised through this continuous program of fear. They end each show with a plea for donations because “it has been a tough year.” If you have ever visited their campus in Colorado Springs, you will know that they are not in great need and that no such “tough year” exists.
Yes, these groups are worried about equality for us in the schools. They are doing what they can to present schools from offering equal access for GLBT students through clubs. In fact, another school recently banned a GSA club (Gay/Straight Alliance). Click here for the story.
And remember us talking about Jason Johnson, the young man who was expelled from University of the Cumberlands (formerly Cumberland College) in Kentucky? Here is what my Soulforce friend, Jamie McDaniel, a former Southern Baptist youth pastor, wrote in his letter to the editor.
I read with sadness the news of the University of the Cumberlands expelling student Jason Johnson for revealing on his personal webpage at MySpace.com that he is gay.
President Jim Taylor defended the Southern Baptist school’s action by stating, “We are different by design, and are non-apologetic about our Christian beliefs.”
It is bad enough that the school administration committed this sin, but they double it when they link their discrimination to Jesus. To comprehend how they could justify such injustice, one must be aware of the history of the Southern Baptist Convention. They are the one denomination born specifically out of a belief that slavery was biblical. In the 161 years since they broke away from other Baptists, they have exchanged one prejudice for another – favoring slavery and Jim Crow laws, opposing women’s suffrage, resisting civil rights for blacks, limiting women’s role in ministry, and fighting against equality for gays and lesbians. A review of history shows Southern Baptists have done all these things while citing scripture.
Southern Baptist fundamentalists may never understand how expelling students due to sexual orientation is unfair, but middle America is certainly coming around. Actually, some Southern Baptists in the pew are starting to see the injustice as well. Sadly, when they voice their beliefs against discrimination, they too find themselves in trouble with the leaders of their denomination.
A TV reporter friend of mine in Lexington, KY, just sent me the statement that was released on April 19 by James Taylor, President of the University of the Cumberlands. The statement discusses the agreement that has been reached by the university and Jason Johnson. Click here to read. I wrote her back, saying,
What is interesting is this part of their statement.
"Jason was suspended by the University for violating the University's code of conduct, which clearly states that students should not engage in sex outside of marriage, including homosexual acts, and that students who engage in such conduct may be suspended. We do not spy on our students and we do not put their personal lives under the microscope to find out who may be violating this policy. However, when it is brought to the administration's attention, as it was in Jason's case, that a student may be violating the code of conduct, the University investigates the charges and addresses any violations"
Let’s take a look at this. They are assuming that he engaged in sex simply because he is homosexual (after admitting to being gay on his myspace website). Now, I do not know whether Jason said that he is engaging in sex on his website or whether he simply stated his sexual orientation by claiming that he is gay, but if the code of conduct is about one's behavior vs. one's orientation, then neither homosexual students nor heterosexual students would be suspended simply for being homosexual or heterosexual. It is similar to the Catholic church's absurd ruling they have issued, confusing orientation and behavior by saying they will get rid of priests who even "look and/or act homosexual" (whatever that means!). What it means is that potential priests and current priests who fall into this category, who may be heterosexual men, will be suspended because they are "perceived" to be homosexual. Priests who are heterosexual are expected to uphold their vows of celibacy. Why can't homosexual priests be expected to do the same? Instead, the homosexual priests are being singled out and let go, as if they don’t have the capacity to keep their vows of celibacy. It is the same with students who are suspended for simply being homosexual. The assumption is made that they will act upon their orientation.
Some religious institutions are hypocritical. They create situations that encourage people to be dishonest. These institutions then move forward getting their funds from donors for creating the illusion that they are moral institutions where certain beliefs and teachings are being adhered to.
We want to issue a special thanks to Dave, a man we first met at the PFLAG meeting in Arkansas. Dave’s own special way of supporting us is to call every week or two and check in with us. Sometimes we aren’t available, but we later discover a wonderful heart-warming message on our cell phone. He also send cards to our home, which we receive when our mail is shipping. Thanks for your support, Dave!
We mentioned in our last newsletter about speaking at Georgia Tech. We cracked up when they told us the students were having an 80’s party. It sounded vaguely familiar until we realized that we used to having a 50’s party. How times have changed! (: We hope to have pictures of that great group at Tech, as well as one of Patti Parker, a great ally in Georgia Tech administration. Patti has two wonderful sons, one gay and one non-gay.
We still haven’t been able to download pictures, such as the ones from Georgia Tech and New Jersey, that are on our new Casio digital, given to us by Sue Schantz. We finally found a camera dock online for charging the camera and downloading pics. It has shipped to arrive in time for the PFLAG NW conference this week-end. The pics in the newsletter this week are ones Roby made with her professional camera, since she can download from that one.
Gay is going UP!! I honestly wrote that last sentence, meaning “Gas is going UP!” I cracked up when I read what I had written. It’s costing over $100 for a fill-up now. It is almost $3.00 per gallon. That reminds us of the two ladies we met after heading west from Wheeling, West Virginia. Having slept in the Walmart lot, we were headed into Staples to pick up some labels. Two women passed our rig as we got out. We saw them looking backwards, and laughed to ourselves. They will ask us in a moment. Sure enough, they stopped and said, “What are you all doing?” That conversation led us to sharing about our journey, and them inviting us to their place of business, The Perky Puppy (give website). Vanessa and Jessica were wonderful, and have been together a year. Congratulations! They asked lots of questions, and granted us permission to share their stories, as well as their picture (which will have to wait until next week since it is in the little camera). In response to some of Vanessa’s comments, Roby shared some of her own experiences about learning to tell the truth about herself. Jessica asked, “What do I say when my friends, knowing I am divorced, ask “Well, are you seeing anyone yet?” Dotti replied, “Why not start with the truth?” Jessica nodded affirmatively. Having only met them 30 minutes previous, we were pleasantly stunned when they offered a donation as soon as we walked into their business. Yea! Great to put gas in the car! We are so appreciative of their generosity. At the same time, we encourage people not to forget to donate in another important way. That is by sharing your story about who you are.
Speaking of sharing your story, look what 75 United Methodist LGBT clergy have done. Their BOLD action is huge! We are glad they are connecting the dots to understand they can’t continue to ask the United Methodist Church to takes risks without taking their own. When the people within the church stand up and speak out, the church will be forced to change. When the people, represented by the head, ears, eyes, arms, and legs perform differently, the body of the church will shift and renew itself, transforming in ways previously unimaginable. And the GLBT community will have been part of that renewal.
In this unprecedented move and at great personal risk, these 75 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clergy issued a letter to UMC leaders on Tuesday, April 18, 2006, seeking full inclusion in the life of the church and outlining their deep fear of coming out of the closet because, like Beth Stroud, they will be stripped of their ordination credentials. The letter also reaffirmed their commitment to serve the Church. The Methodist denomination has been wrestling with the issue of homosexuality since 1972, when it declared homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Since that time, legislation has been passed preventing the ordination of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.” The ban against homosexuals extended from clergy to the laity when an October 2005 Judicial Council ruling allowed a pastor to withhold membership vows from a gay man. Click here to read this historic press release and letter sent out by these 75 ministers.
Parallel to the recent episode where a gay man was denied membership vows, Dotti was denied membership vows in the UMC in 2000. Her complaint was denied by the bishop, and thus he upheld the minister’s right to deny her membership. She had begun attending Centenary United Methodist Church in Lexington, KY in 1998. She then met with the Rev. David Thomas in 1999 about becoming a member. Click here to read the complaint she ultimately filed “for” (not against) the UMC in February of 2000.
Times have changed. At least there was a furor from UMC bishops all over the nation regarding the gay man being denied membership vows. In Dotti’s situation, none of that happened. The ruling bishop in Dotti’s case retired after rendering his opinion. A new bishop was assigned to the district. It took Dotti six month to get a lunch with him in order to share her story about what had happened. The new bisihop refused to intervene. Phil Lawson, who stands with us at Soulforce vigils and is an African-American, heterosexual, retired United Methodist minister said to Dotti, “When you meet with him, tell him that if the church had not changed, he would have never been bishop.” Dotti did. Nothing changed. A person does not reach that level by bucking the system and holding it accountable.
Hey, perhaps “Gay is going UP!” (: Our stock is rising, and there is no stopping us now! Keep reading.
For those of you in the state of Washington (or just interested in what is happening there), click here for some important info from Equal Rights Washington about GLBT Diversity and Marriage Equality and support from faith community.
One of the important parts is the newest research. The poll shows need for conversations about marriage equality. Remember, civil unions are both separate and unequal. We want marriage equality!
The wind was so strong going through Nebraska as Roby was driving into a headwind that even with the pedal to the floor, she could not get the rig going over 60-65 mph. the entire day. The next day as we headed through Wyoming, it got worst! Signs on the interstate said, “Wind gusts of 50 mph +” Check out this picture of Rylee. She is “blowing in the wind!”
Just when we think we can put our newsletter to rest, another wonderful encounter happens. We were tired after long hours of driving, but made it to Cheyenne, Wyoming. We were both hungry and tired. We stopped and got an address for the Walmart, put it in our GPS, and proceeded. Once we saw Walmart, we looked for a place to eat. At 10 p.m., choices are usually limited. Erratic and late night eating…hmmmm…perhaps that is why we have added 15 pounds on this journey! (:
We spotted a place called C.B. & Potts. The sign said they were open until 2 a.m. Inside awaited a unknown wonderful encounter with our server, Tiffanie. When Dotti asked her if she grew up in this area, she replied, “No, I am from Washington.” As you can imagine, the conversation continued. What we never know, however, is how anyone is going to respond about our journey. Tiffanie expressed what the majority of “people on the street” have expressed…encouragement and support. She is an amazing young single mother, with a four year old son. She is in Wyoming for pre-med school, and wants to be a cardiologist!! On her own since 16 years old, she is a success story happening at every turn. She excitedly accepted our card and a rainbow wristband, saying it gave her goose bumps when Dotti told her “Wearing this is a commitment to creating authentic connections and having deeper conversations in whatever way that works in your life.” She is going to be moving to Colorado, and gave us her email, telling us that she would love to hear us speak. We told her that we will speak at Boulder, Colorado PFLAG on July 20.
If you are interested in seeing where the journey of two women and a poodle is heading, click here to check our Events calendar and see if we are going to be in your area. If not, invite us! (:
Looking out at beautiful snowcapped mountains, we headed on from Cheyenne toward Laramie, Wyoming. At one stop, Roby noticed some cowboys behind us, as well as other people who were staring and making comments. They were not comments she could audibly hear, but it seemed obvious they had noticed the signs on our rig. Now, we don’t know if their comments were positive, such as, “Hey, look at that…Gay Into Straight America.com…our nephew, Frank, is gay” or if they were negative comments. What Roby did recognize is that the combination of inaudible comments and remembering what happened to Matthew Shepard created a twinge of fear which moved across her mind. This awareness caused her to consciously process through her feelings, recalling Matthew’s tragic death.
We end this newsletter with tears running down our cheeks, and deep sorrow in our soul for the unnecessary loss of lives, represented by the death of Matthew Shepard. Staring at the fence posts we see across the landscape in Wyoming, and recalling how Matthew was left to die on one, we can’t begin to imagine the fear he felt as the winds, which people tell us blow like this most of the time, whipped across his body in his last moments of life. More than ever, we are committed to bridging the divide of misinformation, misunderstanding and fear in our country as it relates to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning persons, calling attention to the religion-based oppression by some and celebrating the inclusion by others. Matthew Shepard’s death should not be in vain. As we said when we embarked on this journey, “Our country is better than this!” May we each do our part to inspire and transform our country so that we live up to that saying.
From the real and true adventures of two women and a poodle...
The light in us honors the light in you,
Dotti, Roby & Rylee Joy