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
Our desire to post our current newsletter took us all over part of Iowa. Having been offered a stay at the lake home of Tom and Kevin for a couple of days of R & R, after speaking in Minneapolis/St. Paul and before heading to York, PA, they shared that there was no land line, cellular service nor internet. No problem, we thought! (: Normally, that would be just fine with us. Who wouldn't want to enjoy a couple of days at this beautiful place on a lake in the woods? It wasn’t until we realized that Dotti had clients to coach last night that we jumped in the Suburban, and started driving in search of a cell phone signal. At the appointed time for her coaching session, we had driven about 10 miles and discovered a hospital. It turned out to be a perfect solution, with a private pay phone just inside the door!
Today, we needed to post our newsletter, as well as find a cell signal so that Dotti can make two coaching calls with clients tonight. Some have requested how to reach Dotti for her one-on-onecoaching service. Click here for her GLBT Coach website. If you aren't GLBT, click here for her Awakening2Life website, offering her same top-notch one-on-one coaching! (: After all, we are working our way across America!
This day trip in search of internet connection brought us to the Spirit Lake area. We are glad to report that there is indeed a great spirit in this region. We are going to share another example of how not being attached to a specific outcome pays off! Indeed, we had driven up and down the road, stopping at various places, but had no luck, as the internet connections we encountered had only 2 bars (out of 5) of connectivity strength. We were running low on time, knowing that the PFLAG newsletter comes out on Thursday afternoon, and we needed to update quickly. Had we gotten what we needed earlier, however, we would not have made the connections we did.
In search of that elusive internet connection, we finally stopped at a local candy shop that also offered specialty coffees. Sitting outside, we checked for internet connection and it didn’t indicate access with strong connection. Nevertheless, we proceeded inside to get a coffee. While there, we met David Tvedte, the owner (a great Norwegian name that is pronounced "Tweet"). His wife, who was not there, is the other owner. Their shop is Goodies Handmade Candies. We can vouch that they make the best Mocha we have gotten in the country. David says that it is the special chocolate they use. Visit their website. Although you can’t purchase online, you can call toll free 1-800-626-1078 and receive personalized service, as well as email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our discussion over ordering coffee lead to inquiries about our "Two Women and A Poodle" sweatshirts, which lead to sharing about our journey, which led to our “seek and find journey” for internet access in order to post our newsletter. David asked us to wait a minute. When he returned, he encouraged Dotti to try the wireless access again. Bingo, it was there! He had hooked up his wireless router for us to use!
While there, we met Heidi, who made our espresso drinks. She shared that she has a lesbian niece, as well as several gay friends. What? We had not yet had the opportunity to ask her our "connecting threads" question, “Do you know a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person?” (: Heidi shared with us that many of her best friends are gay men. When her shift was over, before leaving to go pick up her children from her parents, Heidi came over to our table to say goodbye, and we ended up enjoying more great conversation with her.
Next, we met Joelle and Mark. Once again, before we could ask our “key question,” Joelle shared about several gay/lesbian friends from her home country of Lebanon. Joelle and Mark moved to the Spirit Lake region about 1 ½ years ago from Oakland, California. Joelle has literally followed Mark (her husband of 9 years) all over the world. Before leaving Goodies, she shared that she and Mark met in Nepal. She told us that a male friend of hers in Lebanon had been jailed for being gay. She also told us about her childhood friend, Elaine (pronounced E-lan-e), who still lives in Lebanon. She asked for our card so that she could email her friend about our journey. She said “You will hear from her tonight. I know it.” She also shared that Elaine would be in Boston in September for 3-4 months. Dotti said, “Great! I would love to meet her. I will be presenting at Fantasia Fair in Provincetown in October.” Before leaving, Dotti asked Joelle and Mark if they would like to have a rainbow wristband, since our encounter had offered an authentic conversation. Joelle replied, "Yes!" and as Dotti went outside to get one for Mark, Joelle followed her outside and asked if she could have an extra one to send her friend in Lebanon. Of course, we were delighted to offer her several wristbands to send to Lebanon, as well as two for their little girls. Dotti asked Joelle if she would check with Elaine, and see if she would be willing to send us a picture of her wearing her rainbow wristband in Lebanon.
Before we left Goodies, another lady named Sandy arrived to work her shift. Like Heidi who she was replacing at the counter, Sandy also knows a GLBT person. Don't we all? Yes, it is still 100% affirmative when we ask people that connecting question.
The amazing part is that all of this happened before posting the following which, originally, would have been the beginning of our newsletter!
You cannot think straight with a heart full of fear, for fear seeks safety, not truth. A heart full of love, on the other hand, has a limbering effect on the mind.--William Sloan Coffin
Dotti: My eyes glazed over, tears spilling down my cheek, as I went back in time several years ago to the day that I first heard William Sloan Coffin speak at the Soulforce vigil at the Catholic Bishops conference in Washington D.C. This saying sits on the piano in the home of Deb and Bill LeMay, two wonderful PFLAG parents and committed Catholics. They truly live their faith, allowing love and its experience to “limber their minds,” allowing it to fuel their passion for equality and justice for ALL people, including but not limited to transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay persons. This has led them to being a part of forming the Catholic Rainbow Parents. The “Catholic Rainbow Parents Declaration” released in July, 2005, is amazing. Click here to read and/or print. It is a pastoral statement of wisdom, love, and support from Minnesota Catholic parents of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. Additionally, click here to read what Deb LeMay said on October 12, 2005, at the Catholic Rainbow Parents Ritual of Affirmation and Sending Out. Heidi, the lesbian daughter or Deb and Bill, and their son, Andy, are fortunate to have them for parents, as well as role models. Their home is not only aesthetically pleasing, but the spirit within it is one of warmth, compassion, genuine caring, and love.
(L-R) Bill, Deb, Roby and Dotti
We had the privilege and honor of spending time this past week with many people who are seeking to embody William Sloan Coffin’s saying. There is nothing more powerful than being privy to the birthing process which enables people to grasp what it means to have words and action match up, creating authenticity in the very depths of their being. We were witness to this ongoing birthing and subsequent transformation this week.
Our intention for this journey has been to engage with those who are “wrestling” with their understanding of transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay persons. As we have said repeatedly, much of the “wrestling” continues to be within our own community, as we struggle to live authentically within the structures that ask us, through their policies, to be complicit in our own emotional and spiritual death. Arriving in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area did nothing to dispel that understanding, for in society at large, as well as within our own community of GLBT persons and allies, “wrestling” is alive and well. We have discovered that “wrestling” is a good thing, for it is descriptive of the movement that is taking place and pushing us beyond the walls of our comfortable boxes.
About 20 people gathered at Bill and Deb’s home last Friday evening, with Deb asking us to share about our Gay Into Straight America journey with folks after dinner. One of those people in attendance was Father Bob, an amazing priest at St. Victoria, who is seeking to bridge the divide within his own parish regarding people’s differences. “Father Bob, even I could be Catholic in your church,” Dotti replied after attending Mass on Sunday, as well as having the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with him on Monday. To be certain, he is a rare combination of commitment to his Catholic heritage and to the living, breathing love of Christ at his core. On February 12, the day the Vatican and the Pope decreed that Catholic churches would put out cards about marriage being between one man and one woman, accompanied by a homily extolling this “ideal for marriage,” the love of Christ won out over Catholic hierarchy. Click here to read Father Bob’s homily. After Sunday’s service, Father Bob, with a twinkle in his eye, asked if we recognized where his homily on moving beyond fear came from. He said he felt inspired after hearing us speak on Friday evening. Hopefully, we will soon have a copy which we can share in our newsletter next week.
(L-R) Roby, Father Bob, and Dotti
Another person we met from St. Victoria Catholic Church in Victoria, Minnesota (outside of Minneapolis), was Jamie, their choir director. Jamie and his partner, Jeremy, are in that process of stepping into their authentic skin. Jeremy wowed all of us with his Bananas & Strawberry Foster Flambe. On Saturday morning, we received this note via email…
Hi Roby & Dotti,
Jamie and I had an amazing, insightful, and incredible time with you two speaking and listening to you! Thank you so much for what you are doing! I wish everyone in the world could just stop for a few hours and just listen. It would be an incredible revelation.
(L-R) Jamie, Dotti, Jeremy, & Roby
Jamie and Jeremy attended the Monday evening PFLAG meeting where we spoke, and then came back over to Deb and Bill’s for more sharing of stories and life, we well as some fun pictures (see below).
(L-R) Dotti, Deb, Jeremy and Jamie...holding Bill
That evening, Jamie said that the time had come for him to share his “authentic self” with his 81 year old grandmother. He admitted that she had left the door open on numerous occasions with her questions, and that it had been he who was too afraid to walk through that door. Realizing that the time had come for him to be honest, he boldly declared that he would speak to his grandmother on Sunday. Following is part of Jamie's email, explaining about the moment of "sharing his truth" with his grandmother...
“Basically, she said that she thought she knew, and she appreciated me sharing this with her. She did say she wished it could be different....that I could be straight. I explained that I COULD have chosen to live a straight life, get married, etc....but that it would be a complete lie. She understood that. She then said, ‘that's the way it is!’ and we will continue on the way we have....in love....but now with the understanding and honesty.”
(L-R) Rylee Joy, Dotti, Deb, Bill, Jeremy, Jamie, and Roby in front
Dotti: Speaking of grandmothers, I am reminded of that same time a few years ago when I met William Sloan Coffin in Washington D.C. The night before, several more speakers spoke to our group, encouraging us as we prepared to confront the religion-based oppression of the Catholic church toward GLBT persons. A gay man, flanked by his mother, pushed his grandmother in her wheelchair down the center aisle of the church. As she rose from her wheelchair to speak at the podium, her words were eloquent. She ended by saying, “I only wish that I were younger so that I could do more for you.” A standing ovation rattled the church. Afterwards, I discovered her sitting in her wheelchair at a table in the hotel, having a glass of wine. I bent down on one knee, so that I could look into her eyes, and said, “Thank you for being here. I appreciated your words.” Her gaze pierced me like the love of Christ as she replied, “No, thank YOU for allowing me to be here.” Tears once again welled up within me as I recalled this experience. Such a moment mirrors the many we are having on this journey. We often wish we could put each of you in our pockets and have you personally experience them. We feel that we have been granted a unique opportunity to share these illuminating experiences with you through our words.
Risk…more than others think is safe
Care…more than others think is wise
Dream…more than others think is possible
Expect…more than others think is practical--cadet maxim
Wouldn’t a combination of William Sloan Coffin’s words and these be all we need to create life in a dynamic way? The only thing we would add would be “Expect…more than others think is practical…without attachment to a specific outcome.” This allows one to fully live Coffin’s word and be limbered by love, rather than immobilized by fear. Aren’t Deb and Bill doing that? Aren’t Father Bob and Jamie/Jeremy doing that?
Are our churches ready for change? The truth is that this question is the wrong one. Are WE ready for change? Are YOU ready for change? When WE are, and YOU are, the churches will have no choice but to change, because they are made up of the people who create the church body. When the people stand up and speak out, the Pope and the Vatican, will have to speak differently. That is how they have issued new proclamations throughout history, remedying things they claimed in the past which have proven to be false.
We spoke at two different PFLAG groups while in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. One was on Sunday afternoon, and the other was on Monday evening. Roxanne is the president of the Sunday group, and Gretchen Murr is the vice-president who initially invited us to speak at the PFLAG groups in the area. She and her husband, Tom, are incredible people (parents of a gay son) who are making such a difference in the world! Roxanne shared that the PFLAG local group just received a grant to help reach out to people of color and bring them to involvement in PFLAG in the area. Thanks Roxanne for all you are doing! We always send a document to the groups to whom we are speaking, and two of the specific things we ask is that the groups reach out and invite people of color and the transgender community to our talk.
A few of the approximately 60 people in attendance at March 19 PFLAG meeting
When we spoke on the 20th, Dotti said, "Real men" wear "Two Women and a Poodle" T-shirts! Tom Murr promptly bought one! You can too! Click here to purchase.
Rylee loved attending the March 20 PLFAG meeting too!
One phrase that continues to be spoken at times in our society, as well as within our own community, is a reference to the homosexual “lifestyle.” If we look at the dictionary definition of the word “lifestyle,” we immediately see how people of homosexual orientation have had their orientation “co-opted” as a “lifestyle.”
life•style also life-style or life style n.
A way of life or style of living that reflects the attitudes and values of a person or group: “It was a millionaire's lifestyle on the pocketbook of a hairdresser” (People).
Usage Note: When lifestyle became popular a generation ago, a number of critics objected to it as voguish and superficial, perhaps because it appeared to elevate habits of consumption, dress, and recreation to categories in a system of social classification. Nonetheless, the word has proved durable and useful, if only because such categories do in fact figure importantly in the schemes that Americans commonly invoke when explaining social values and behavior, as in Rachel Brownstein's remark that “an anticonventional lifestyle is no sure sign of feminist politics, or indeed, of any politics at all.” Fifty-three percent of the Usage Panel accepts the word in Bohemian attitudes toward conventional society have been outstripped and outdated by the lifestyles of millions of young people. An even greater number fully 70 percent accepts the word in Salaries in the Bay Area may be higher, but it may cost employees as much as 30 percent more to maintain their lifestyles, where the context requires a term that implies categorization based on habits of consumption.
(Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition; Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.)
To use the term "lifestyle" in reference to sexual orientation is a misnomer, as it is not congruent with the above definition. The dictionary definition of lifestyle helps us clarify and understand this distinction. It defines it as (n) : a manner of living that reflects the person's values and attitudes. Human sexual orientation is neither a "value" nor an "attitude." Therefore, neither a “homosexual lifestyle” nor a “heterosexual lifestyle” exists. In our society, however, while one hears reference to a “homosexual lifestyle,” one never hears reference to a “heterosexual lifestyle.” It is the “homosexual lifestyle” that is used as a derogatory term, allowing people to denigrate persons who are gay and lesbian, calling their “lifestyle” a threat to family values. The reality is that how one chooses to live out their human sexual orientation, (whether that is homosexual or heterosexual), in terms of being “open, in the closet, monogamous, promiscuous” would be the "lifestyle," as those choices represent a “value” or “attitude” consistent with the term, “lifestyle.” Click here for verification from other sources of the definition of the word "lifestyle."
Additionally, this terminology, until recent years, has been accepted by much of society, as well as by many GLBT people who have believed what they have heard, and bought into being called the “homosexual lifestyle.” Referring to GLBT persons as a “lifestyle” allows people to push away and discount homosexual persons. It leads to misunderstanding the lives and relationships of homosexual persons, and who they love. Referral by the GLBT community to their orientation as a “lifestyle” creates shame, as if it is something to “overcome” rather than a part that should be celebrated.
The work of the Equality Riders reminds us once again this week that if you are in the eye of the tornado, it is hard to believe that good weather exists on the beach in Florida. They are flying directly into this eye of the storm by confronting the anti-gay policies of Christian schools and military academies around the United States. These groups, however, constitute a minority in our country. We cannot be held in fear by this minority group, wherever they hide, and no matter how loud they sound in our churches. These are the groups that always want to meet with the minister, or the priest, suggesting that being inclusive is somehow against God’s will.
The following is an interesting article, Jefferson, Madison and their Evangelical Pals … Religious freedom resulted from an unlikely alliance: evangelicals and skeptics
Could this happen again several hundred years later?? Is there a real opportunity for us to bridge the divide of these polarized sides again today?
Each time we speak, there is great interest in the process of non-violence. Dotti's first encounter was through participating with Soulforce in 1999, when she took the original 17 Step Journey into Soulforce, before gathering to meet with Jerry Falwell at Thomas Road Baptist Church. Click here if you are interested in learning more, and in taking that 17 Step Journey.
These non-violent principles were used by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. To learn more about the Civil Rights Era, click on the links below.
The Civil Rights Era:
Part I: Desegregation/Civil Rights in the Arena and on the Stage
The Civil Rights Era:
Part II: Sit-ins, Freedom Rides, and Demonstrations
In Part 1 and 2, you can also see what Rodney Powell (Soulforce board member) who took a seat at the lunch counter when he was a young man, says about The Equality Ride, a response to the anit-gay teachings of Christian colleges/universities and military schools and the modern day equivalent to what the Freedom Riders did during the civil rights era. They are encouraging us to Learn from History!
Click here for African American Odyssey from the Library of Congress
Dotti: I recently finished a book, Blinded by the Right, by David Brock. This is an insider’s view from someone who was a “golden boy” in the conservative moment. He wrote The Real Anita Hill, but later renounced what he wrote, and apologized to her.
As I read his account, I felt thankful that people are beginning to “get it” that creating polarized political sides is serving no one.
We also just read A New Earth…Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, by Eckhart Tolle (also author of The Power of Now). We actually “listened” to it on our MP3 player. Having a subscription to Audible is great! Next week, we will provide a link for how to subscribe to Audible (since we are an affiliate), if you are interested in finding out more regarding how you can download books into your MP3 player.
Dotti: Our journey continues to remind us that we can use interactions with people and situations that occur as opportunities to reveal “who we are not” so that we can awaken to “who we are.” As I share at each talk and in everyday life, that is how I have positively used the mirror of my family. As we become more awake and aware, we realize that our consciousness is a tool to empower ourselves and others, not a weapon to judge ourselves and others, as we understand more and more how ego runs us/our lives. Responses that empower, rather than reactions that harm, allow me to evolve on a daily basis. I often remind myself that people/situations that trigger me in any way are opportunities for revealed healing at the core of my being. They expose (in a good way) the very nature of my judgment about people/situations.
Eckhart Tolle writes in his book, “With forgiveness, we relinquish our victim hood, and proceed into a new awakened state.” He also shares that going beyond content is necessary to reach our essence. The descriptions about us are ‘content.’ The inner space of consciousness is what is beyond content.”
To all that we have met during this past week, we embrace the connectedness between all of us. We celebrate that each time any one of us awakens to another authentic part of our being, there is a ripple effect across the Universe, inviting others to do the same, and serving as a model for how to do that! We owe you a debt of gratitude for your willingness to embrace all that you truly are, and sharing yourself with others. What a gift you are! And, your authentic self is the gift that keeps on giving!
From the real and true adventures of two women and a poodle...
The light in us honors the light in each of you,
Dotti, Roby & Rylee Joy