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
Similar to last week, we could barely finish our newsletter in time to post due to the “interruptions” from people seeking to understanding more about our journey. What a wonderful reason for not getting more writing accomplished last night! After all, we only have a newsletter to write because of the unbelievable connections with people that continue to happen. Our newsletter represents our opportunity to share and communicate these incidents in a way that helps you to “feel” the journey as we experience it. What does it matter if we miss our targeted deadline? If we get attached to that specific outcome, we might miss opportunities to engage hearts and minds. That would analogous to sitting down to a meal at a fine restaurant and choosing to eat the menu rather than the meal. To mistake one for the other misses the point. The experience of authentic engaging with others is the gift…the cake. The opportunity to share it with you all is the icing.
Yesterday started out with an opportunity to meet the staff of PFLAG national and thank them for all they are doing! What a diverse group! This wonderful banner hung in the conference room.
We appreciate Judy Hoff, Coordinator for Safe Schools Program and Transgender Issues, for coordinating our visit. After introducing us around to everyone in the office, she arranged the opportunitiy for us to talk with one another over lunch. We appreciated the hospitality! Rylee Joy also enjoyed her visit to PFLAG national headquarters, with Executive Director, Jody Huckaby, filling a water bowl and giving her treats. Rylee Joy wants to be the official PFLAG mascot. We hope she doesn't get too attached to THAT specific outcome! (:
We were able to share experiences from our journey, talking about the fabulous job that local PFLAG chapters are doing, and the continued inspiration we have for speaking to them. We LOVE the wonderful PFLAG parents we are meeting! We shared our thoughts on the role we feel is important for the evolution of both our GLBT community and organizations such as PFLAG. The bottom line for us is that we realize that we cannot ask more of others than we are willing to ask of ourselves. That means sharing our lives and our stories with those closest in our lives…family, friends, and co-workers. How can others grow and shift into a new understanding about whom we are if we refuse to allow them to really know us? There are many myths from which many GLBT persons and others still operate. Click here to read what Dotti just finished writing, “Debunking Ten Myths about GLBT…and turning them into gifts that empower.”
PFLAG National Staff with Dotti & Roby and PFLAG's new mascot, Rylee Joy (:
After our meeting ended, we left the PFLAG office about 3:30. Our intention was to find a Panera Bread, our wonderful office away from home. Dotti had client calls beginning at 6:30 and lasting through 9:30, so she knew that a few hours of work could be accomplished, with Roby continuing to work on the newsletter and prepare pictures while Dotti was coaching. When we walked out the door of the PFLAG national office, we were overwhelmed by the warm spring air. This beautiful afternoon beckoned us to walk the streets with Rylee Joy in tow (or with us in tow).
While on our walk, we discovered a restaurant with tables along the sidewalk. This always catches our eye and draws us in, reminding us of our favorite European cafes. It also offers us a place to sit with Rylee. Dinner time was now approaching, and we noticed they had hamburgers for half price. Since we usually split a hamburger, this made it extra enticing! Two people sat at the table behind us. At one point, the man spoke out saying, “Hey, beautiful woman.” Roby and I both thought he was talking to Rylee Joy! A woman off the street turned and laughed, recognizing him and the lady sitting there as people from the conference they were all attending in DC. Her beautiful accent reminded Dotti of our German friend, Annette. Dotti was immediately intrigued, as Roby was leaving the table to walk Rylee in a grassy area. When Roby returned, Dotti was talking with the two people who originally were sitting behind us. Their friend, saying “Chow” as she left, rambled on down the street. That caused Dotti to ask them where their friend lived. They shared that she is from Hungary, but lives in Cuba. That led to asking where they reside. Kristie shared that she grew up in North Carolina, but lives in Ghana. Stan shared that he grew up in Moscow, but lives in Australia. At this time, however, he is working in Moscow. We discovered that they do cultural orientation for refugees coming to the United States. As we talked, they asked what we were doing and we shared about our journey. Dotti asked Stan how they deal with the GLBT refugees, and the issues they might face. He said that he has never had but one experience, and that was dealing with a lesbian that was a refugee. Dotti offered that perhaps he had only been “aware” of dealing with one person who was GLBT. Krisitie’s nodding head told us that was true. The agencies with which they work simply do not address this important part of understanding what might impact refugees. Our hope is that will change in the future, as we suspect that being a GLBT person in a very unwelcoming culture could be a primary reason for some to seek refugee status.
The exchange with Kristie and Stan made us want to continue our conversation, and we didn’t leave until the latest moment possible. Though we had delayed our writing, Dotti had to be prepared for her coaching calls, while Roby needed access to the Wi-Fi at Panera Bread so that she could prepare pics and work on the newsletter. We found one close to the Wal-mart lot 20 miles north of Washington D.C. where our Scotty was parked.
Dotti sat in the Suburban and dialed her first client. Before her client came to the phone, there was a tap at the window. Dotti opened the door as the person was asking, “What does your sign mean?” Dotti asked, “Could you hold on just a minute?” She then waited for her client to answer, asking her client if she would mind holding for just a few seconds. She then told the person outside her door, “It is our year long journey around the country talking to people who are wrestling with their understanding of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. I am sorry that I don’t have time to talk right because I have a client call, but my spouse, Roby, will be walking back here to bring me a cup of coffee and she would be glad to talk with you.” Fumbling for a business card, Dotti asked the person, “What’s your name?” Dotti then pulled off her rainbow wristband, offering it, saying that our website is on the band. Dotti noticed that the person stood at the back of the car until Roby returned. Dotti thanked her client for her patience, with the client replying, “Wow! That was great.” They both decided that the momentary interruption had been worthwhile in allowing her client to experience a little of what happens on the road.
As Roby made her way back to the car with Dotti’s coffee, she noticed this person standing nearby. This individual approached Roby and said, “Hi… I was just looking at this (holding a rainbow wristband).” Roby said, “Oh, where did you get that?” The person said, “She just gave it to me and told me that you would be back and could talk with me, and tell me what you’re doing.” Roby happily explained a little about our journey, and then asked, “Do you have a connection or an interest in the GLBT community?” “Well, yes… I’m transgender and identify as female.” Roby exclaimed, “How wonderful! Did you tell Dotti that?” She said, “No, I didn’t have the opportunity.” Roby then said, “Well, you happened upon the right people tonight! Dotti just happens to specialize in Transgender issues, and works with a lot of people in the community!” She smiled. Roby asked, “What’s your name?” She replied, “Well, my given name is Jeff, but I like the name Heather.” Roby said, “What would you like me to call you?” She said, “Well, since I am in the Military, and would be dishonorably discharged & lose my college funding if I’m discovered, I can’t live as a female right now, so I just go by Bren, which is taken from part of my last name. Roby asked, “Would you like me to use female pronouns?” She said, “Yes, that would be nice… I don’t get to hear them very often.” (Note: real names have been changed)
(Note: Our policy has been that we don’t share stories using “fictitious names” because the stories tend to lose their authentic nature. As well, we feel that our silence about who we are contributes to the demonizing of GLBT persons in our culture. Unattached to a specific outcome, however, we decided to make an exception to our general policy. Why? We don’t use stories with people’s real names without their permission, and we did not seek that nor receive that before she left. In this case, however, the story is so powerful that we want to share it with you and thus made the decision to use a fictitious name in order to protect her identity at this time. Dotti did not get to talk to Bren before she left, and hopes to see her at IFGE.)
Shame and internal homophobia keep us silent, as well as our unwillingness to risk the consequences of being open. We want to reiterate that we acknowledge that people face the possibility of suffering losses by being open. Whatever those losses are, however, will be part of the journey that is experienced whether our community moves forward now, or waits 20, 30, 50 years to do so. We also want to reiterate that, until we are willing to take the consequences of claiming the truth of who we are, we deny ourselves the opportunity to experience true freedom.
Just before Roby and Bren proceeded into Panera Bread, Roby slipped a note in the door to Dotti that read, “Please come inside when you are finished. Bren is transgender, M-F!” Dotti: “I now understood the insistent look I saw as the person had peered into my window.”
Bren and Roby continued their conversation inside Panera Bread until closing. Roby learned that Bren is 22, and has been aware of her female identity since age 10. Her mom knows she is transgender but doesn’t want to talk. It was apparent that Bren doesn’t have much of a support system, so Roby assured her that she could consider us supporters and friends.
Dotti: After my client call, I took one minute to run into Panera Bread. I had no time to sit and talk, as I had one last client call for the evening. Roby was doing a FANTASTIC job, having already taken Bren through our website, as well as through the IFGE website (International Foundation for Gender Education), sharing about the upcoming conference April 5-8 in Philadelphia. Roby encouraged Bren to come with us to the conference, and if she does, it’ll be her first one.
I quickly darted back into the parking lot to sit in the suburban and call my next client. I dialed and got my client on the line, when once again, there was a tap at my window. This time a African American man and woman stood outside my door. I asked my client if they would mind holding for a few seconds and they immediately said it was ok. I opened the door and the same scenario as above was re-enacted. The only difference was that I had no more cards in my pocket, and I had given away the wristband on my arm. The man reached out and shook my hand firmly, saying, “Thank you for your mission.” As I searched for a card, telling them that I could run inside and get one from Roby, the man said, “Well, I don’t think we will forget that website name.” My client, however, urged me, “Go get one!” I did. As I handed the card to these wonderful folks, the man again shook my hand and thanked me. I told them I was sorry that I was unable to talk with them further, but encouraged them to peruse our website. They both chimed in that they would. My client, similar to the previous one, said “Wow! What an experience that was.” I am grateful that these clients were gracious enough to allow me those few moments.
After driving nearly 20 hours from the Lakes Region of Iowa earlier in this past week, we arrived in York, PA. to speak on Monday, March 27. We were happy to have reached our destination, after two and a half days on the road. The night before arriving into York, we thought we might be forced to pull off the side of the road somewhere in the mountains of PA. Finally, around 12:30 a.m., we found a welcome sight… a travel oasis! Ahhh…sleep is good.
This group in York, PA, with 51 in attendance, brought together a wide variety of people…those from PFLAG chapters in York and Harrisburg, people from the Unitarian church which hosted our talk, the GLBT group at the Unitarian church, and Renaissance, a transgender group in Harrisburg.
A few of the attendees from our talk in York, PA
Randy (holding Rylee Joy) is president of the York PFLAG group
Our host for our stay in York was Finnie. She is a M-F Transsexual. Finnie wasn’t yet home from work when we arrived, but her daughter, Evelyn, who is ten years old and lives with her mom across the street, ran over to let us in the door. Evelyn immediately took to Rylee, and vise versa. Rylee is constantly asking us if we can have a “kid,” but we keep telling her no. Now, here in York, she finally got her “kid!”
(L-R) Finnie, Evelyn (holding Rylee Joy), Dotti and Roby
We enjoyed a delicious Chinese meal with Wally & Bob and Finnie & Evelyn, all whom attend the UU Church and are active in the GLBT group there. Thanks again, Bob, for treating us! Wally, age 83, said he just started coming to PFLAG, and loves it!
Evelyn was the official dog handler and “watch-girl” for the PFLAG meeting Monday night. Rylee enjoyed her usual romp and circle run around the church sanctuary for the 20 minutes before the meeting started, and then she promptly found herself a perfect place to sleep onstage, where she remained till the meeting was over! Rylee even got to ride back home in Evelyn & Finnie’s car after the meeting.
Evelyn looks as if she is ready to take over some of the driving for Roby! Roby did allow her to "steer" going down the driveway!
We got to see Evelyn before we left next the day, when the school bus dropped her off at 3pm.
Following is what she told Finnie about her ride home. "I hoped they were still here. I knew if their camper was in the parking lot they were still here. I thought about it all the way home. When I saw the camper I ran to the house, threw down my book bag, got my bike and came right over." When Evelyn found out Crackers, the cat, and Rylee made friends, she ran to see. Finnie said, "Ok so maybe the cat just tolerates the dog, but it was still an inspiring display of cooperation."
Rylee even left Evelyn a note about how see got her name. Evelyn wondered how a young poodle developed such excellent penmanship, and asked if and when Dotti, Roby and Rylee Joy were coming back.
We felt such a warm welcome from everyone, and as always, felt so blessed to have had the opportunity to meet and spend the evening with such wonderful people who are passionate about fairness, equality & justice. We were also very blessed by the generous donations and products purchased by many in the group. Thanks to all of you for helping keep us on the road, and for being a part of our journey!
This wonderful banner hangs at the headquarters of PFLAG in Washington D.C.
We continue to be touched and inspired by PFLAG, and the countless numbers of dedicated moms, dads, family members and friends who not only love their transgender, bisexual, lesbian & gay sons and daughters, but CELEBRATE who they are! We honor each and every one of you and feel such gratitude for who you are and for what you’re doing to make a difference in the world!
Our Two Women & A Poodle shirts are becoming a hot item, and we are honored to have many people around the country wearing them. Wally, our 83-year young friend says he’ll wear his with pride…at the PRIDE parade! It goes to show that real "wise" men wear "Two Women and a Poodle" T-shirts! Remember, you can order yours online by clicking here.
Having emailed for some time, we finally got to meet Sharon Muzio, a nurse and a talented writer, who touches lives and makes a difference in the world through her work. She photographed us for an article she’ll be writing for a newspaper called Alternative Central. Once we have a link to Sharon’s article, we’ll post it on the website. Sharon believes that our “Two Women and a Poodle” logo is becoming recognizable. Hey, we may not be Nike, but we hope that one day, when people see this image, they will say “Gay Into Straight America” while simultaneously thinking,“Engaging Hearts and Minds, Creating Authentic Connections, and Dissolving Differences that Separate Us!” Ok, we accept that it may take longer than a year long journey for that to happen. That’s ok. It took a long time for people to see a “swish” and automatically think “Nike!”
Speaking of articles, another one came out this week. This one is by Deb Clark, a writer for the Freedom Press in Nashville, TN. Titled “Two Women & a Poodle: A Cross Country ‘Gay Into Straight America’ Trip.”
Back to Finnie. She is an engineer, with amazing skills when it comes to fixing and building things! She was kind to have taken a look at our “ill” heater/thermostat in our Scotty, but discovered that it would take components and parts that we did not have. We made the decision to leave it alone. She also rigged up a new trip cord for the emergency trailer brake, which broke a couple of months ago! Finnie is also a very skilled blacksmith, and made some beautiful stainless steel bracelets as a gift to us. Additionally, Finnie (who works for York Labels), made Two Women & A Poodle labels for us! These labels, with a rainbow background, make great décor for a car window! We don’t think that Sharon and Finnie had a prior conversation about our logo, but they are definitely thinking in similar ways. Just as our wristbands cause people to say, “Why do you wear that?” or “What does that band represent,” at the very least, these labels might create an authentic conversation when people ask, “What’s with the two women and a poodle on your car window?” Thanks for EVERYTHING, Finnie!
The experiences with “people on the street” were diverse this week. Enroute from York to Washington D.C. on Tuesday, we were famished and decided to stop at an exit for dinner about 8:30. Our good fortune was that there was a Walmart at the exit, and thus we had our camping place for the evening, about 60 miles outside of Washington D.C. As we waited for a table, four women approached and asked if the chairs were taken. Roby replied that she had been saving them for their group. They laughed and sat down. Finally, our “beeper” went off and we were called for our table. When we approached, I asked if it was non-smoking, and the hostess replied “On, that’s right…you want a non-smoking table. You will be called next.” She handed our beeper back to us, and we returned to our spot. “Are you here for the conference?” one of the women asked. No, we replied, but inquired as to what conference they were here attending. That led to us learning that the four of them were from Arizona and New Mexico area. As we continued our conversation, they learned of our journey. That led one woman to sharing that the Catholic Church is the people, not the Pope and the Vatican, saying “I hope I don’t offend anyone” as she looked at her peers, people she only met that day. She continued by saying that she was upset with the Vatican and Pope about their views regarding GLBT persons. We then told her about our newsletter from last week, and the wonderful Catholic people in Minnesota who are working for change within the church. We asked if she would like to have one of our business cards. She immediately reached out her hand to take one, and we directed her to go to “News Updates” in order to read it. The other three in their party also took our business card.
Timing is everything. We shook our heads as we realized that our commitment to having a non-smoking table led to a wonderful encounter. It was short, and we never got to ask their names, as our beeper (and theirs) went off and we proceeded to our respective tables, but we would like to think that their dinner conversation was at a deeper level than it might have otherwise been due to our encounter. We know that ours was. Click here if you missed last week’s newsletter.
Speaking of our Catholic friends who are so diligently working to be inclusive, click here for Father Bob’s Homily from March 19 that we promised to share with you. This is the one he fashioned after hearing us talk after dinner at that Friday evening at the home of PFLAG and Catholic parents, Deb and Bill LeMay.
Lifestyle – co-opting a word. People have asked for that link from the last newsletter. Here it is … all in one place with definitions and all.
Questions…Questions…and more Questions. Click here to read a short “questioning” for ministers and others with a spiritual background, who are wrestling with their understanding of GLBT persons.
Third time’s the charm. That’s what we believe! Wedding plans for Washington continue to “gather steam.” Check out the following line-up. Karen Ghio has offered to gift us with a full dove release. Click here to read more and contact her. She just emailed us saying that landed a big account from someone finding her through our website! Lars Clausen is on board to officiate. He will soon be releasing his book, Straight Into Gay America. Jamie & Jeremy, singers we met in Minnesota, have offered to fly out and perform “The Prayer” when we legally marry in Washington. Now, if the Supreme Court of Washington would just go ahead and issue a favorable ruling extending marriage equality to same gender couples!
Wouldn’t it be great if it happened around the time we get back to the west coast to speak at the PFLAG NW Conference? If you aren’t signed up, it isn’t too late!
Click here for the website and register! Don’t miss a chance to hear Dr. Robert Minor, PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby, PFLAGSafe Schools/Transgender Issues Coordinator Judy Hoff, Jamison Green, author of Becoming a Visible Man, and many other wonderful speakers! Read about all the wonderful workshops you can attend. Sign up and bring your parents, family and ally friends, as well as those who are "wrestling" with their understanding about GLBT persons. This is a great opportunity. Think they won't say "yes?" Ask them anyway. Your empowerment is not in whether they say "yes." Your empowerment lies in your daring to have the courage to invite them!
Speaking of Marriage Equality, this was recently sent out by Equal Rights Washington:
Support for marriage equality reaches an all time high!
According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, public acceptance of homosexuality has increased in a number of ways in recent years, though it remains a deeply divisive issue. Half of Americans (51%) continue to oppose legalizing gay marriage, but this number has declined significantly from 63% in February 2004, when opposition spiked following the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision and remained high throughout the 2004 election season. Opposition to gay marriage has fallen across the board, with substantial declines even among Republicans.
These are among the results of the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted among 1,405 adults from March 8-12. The poll also finds less opposition to gays serving openly in the military and a greater public willingness to allow gays to adopt children. A 60% majority now favors allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, up from 52% in 1994, and 46% support gay adoption, up from 38% in 1999.
Though some are shifting their views, the recent rumor that Dobson was experiencing a metamorphosis regarding his views on homosexuality turned out to be false. A friend of mine had excitedly written about Dr. Dobson's “support of a Colorado bill that would grant ‘reciprocal-beneficiary contracts’ to homosexual couples.” I shared with Joanne that I had heard some rumors, but would not specify what they were until I checked them out, and that I thought they were probably a hoax. She wrote back and shared, “Yes, some reports of this news suggested that he was softening his stance on gay unions. Apparently this was over-stated. He received a lot of heat in the press and it would appear that he feels his support was misunderstood. All I heard was that he supported a bill that was supporting gay rights. I have included an article below from TruthorFiction.com that tries to clarify the issue. The truth is not as favorable as I had thought.” Click here to read that report.
There is an interesting point to understand and consider regarding this rumor and its fallout. The anti-gay groups consistently found common ground and stood together to present a unified front during the past 30-40 years. They are now beginning to back-bite one another. It is a telling sign that the forces that are against us are beginning to crumble.
The “Love Won Out” conferences presented by Dr. Dobson and Focus on the Family, encouraging people to become “ex-gay,” are thriving, with a recent emphasis on reaching youth.
They are not the only ones attempting to reach the youth. While at PFLAG National, Judy Hoff, their Safe Schools coordinator, gave me a copy of Truth and Tolerance…A Youth Leader’s Resource for Addressing Homosexuality. It is produced by Exodus Youth, a division of Exodus International, presenting the truth that freedom from homosexuality is possible through Christ. It is important to be aware of these resources and what they are claiming. Click here to read.
Speaking of ex-gay therapy, several years ago Pastor Jeremy Marks abandoned his attempt to turn gay Christians “straight,” finding the therapy ineffective and spiritually corrosive. After 14 years of pastoral work with people trying to change their homosexual orientation, the leader of an evangelical ‘ex-gay’ organization has given-up trying to reorient struggling gay Christians and now helps them integrate their faith and homosexuality. Jeremy Marks will be speaking about his experience in ex-gay ministry on Tuesday, April 4th, at 7:30 PM in the parish hall of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, 1130 Jervis Street, Vancouver. The event is sponsored by Integrity Vancouver, a support and advocacy group for gay and lesbian Anglicans.
Click here to check out this event if you live in Pacific Northwest and want to attend.
Blayne Bell is a talented young musician, who defied attempts to make him ex-gay. He is representative of those GLBT students at Christian schools and military academies with policies that denigrate GLBT persons. that the Equality Riders are attempting to reach.
In 2001, Blayne Bell was given an ultimatum by Abilene Christian University: either do six hours of counseling a week to “fix” his gayness, or he was going to lose his scholarship, his on-campus job, housing and all the college credits he worked so hard for because ACU wasn’t going to have gays on their campus. “I told them they were already there, that if they put me out we were going to war, and I would embarrass the hell out of them,” says Bell, who was originally classified as a Christian gospel singer, and now records under his agency, Standout Music Outreach. “This is when I left the gospel music, and realized I needed to come out and build an outreach to reach all kids, religious or not; especially after seeing two other kids get kicked out of ACU – one turned to drugs and alcohol, the other committed suicide."
The good news is that it appears that Abilene Christian University has made some shifts since 2001. Click here to read about the warm welcome the university vowed to make to the Equality Riders. Indeed, they stayed true to their word when the Equality Riders visited there on March 27, 2006. Equality Riders completed a full day of presentations, discussions and worship with students at Abilene Christian University today, the first school to allow the Riders full access to campus.
Despite the warm greeting extended to Soulforce Equality Riders, Abeline Christian University continues to hold a student conduct policy forbidding "homosexual behavior," which has led to students being expelled from the school.
Jake Reitan added, "The fact remains that students can still be kicked out of ACU because they are gay. As long as that can happen, this campus is not a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. There are still a lot of issues to talk about here. We hope our visit is only the beginning of this discussion." Click here to read "the rest of the story."
Blayne speaks and entertains with the message "It is not what you are but who you are." He incorporates his personal life, humor, writings, stories and music talent all in one performance. You will laugh, cry, cheer and leave feeling full-filled. Click here to read more about Blayne Bell.
Click here to email Blayne. You can also visit Blayne by clicking on this website, and find him under “music” and “coming out.”
As for us, we are inspired by both the young, as well as "those with additional years of wisdom." The stories and lives of each have touched our hearts during this past week.
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