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 connections from this journey just keep happening! We received this email from Karen, a friend in Bellingham, saying,
“I just have to tell you that Kirk’s aunt whom we haven’t seen or heard from in 15 years just called me to say that she read the kids interview with you on the internet and was so impressed that she felt like she needed to call us, wow! Talk about making connections! She is a lovely person but very shy and has always kept to herself, so I was so happy to hear that she wanted to connect with us. She also called Kirk’s 90 year old grandmother (her mom) to tell her about the interview and after explaining what gay rights were all about, Kirk’s Nuna said, “That is just wonderful!”
It made my day; I hope it makes your day a sunny and bright spot too! Love, K”
Indeed, her note did make our day! If you haven't read the story about Riley and Lauren, the kids of Karen & Kirk Ghio, click here. Their letters to us before we left are absolutely heart-warming! Riley thinks we may even change history! Who are we to doubt the dreams and imagination of a child. That each of us would be more childlike would be a good intention!
The connections continued as we rolled into Oregon, having manuevered through 60+ mph winds in parts of Nebraska & Wyoming. What a pic of Rylee Joy with her ears standing straight up!
We were unprepared for the feelings we experienced as we drove along the Columbia River Gorge. The view was breathtaking, and we stopped at one point near Multnomah Falls, deeply breathing in the air while tears trailed down our cheeks. We had previously written in a newsletter about our “home is where the heart is,” feelings, while simultaneously admitting that it sounded hokey. Although we were still 5 hours from home, a deep connection seemed to permeate the depths of us. The allure of the Pacific Northwest, with its combination of snow-capped mountains, beautiful rivers, the Pacific Ocean, and mild climate was penetrating us in a way that words don’t adequately describe.
There are many ways to connect, and music is one of them. Lucie Blue Tremblay’s songs have come to the Gay Into Straight America website! Thank you Lucie! If you have never heard The Neighborhood Song, you are in for a treat! You will also find the other two songs, It’s Got to be about Love, and If You’ve Ever Loved, on our home page with its new “cleaner and sleeker” look. Thanks Lars for your help! Click here to see! While on our homepage, you can also click onto Lucie’s music website. You can check out her schedule, as well as purchase her music. You can also click on Lucie’s project, The Breast Exam Project while visiting our homepage.
Connections just kept happening last week! The PFLAG NW Regional Conference was an outstanding success, guided by a superb team including Terry Rhines, Kathy Reim (Washington Coordinator), Patricia Kenney (Oregon Coordinator), and Marcie Mathis (NW Regional Coordinator).
Marcie at microphone and then (L-R in front): Patricia, Terry & Kathy
Also joining us were PLAG National President, Sam Thoron, Executive Director, Jody Huckaby, Safe Schools Coordinator, Judy Hoff, and Field and Policy Coordinator, Charles Cook. Having met and played with Rylee at the National Headquarters in Washington DC two weeks ago, Jody and Judy immediately asked about her. Rylee was excited to see them again!
The conference did a great job in continuing to educate about the transgender community, and issues which are important, offering numerous workshops. Click here to see what PFLAG is doing at the national level with the PFLAG Transgender Network (TNET).
Portland Mayor Tom Potter, sporting his rainbow wristband.
On Friday evening, we were blown away by the talent of a group of GLBT folks doing reflective and dynamic performance poetry. The Bent Writing Institute poetry group provided the highlight of the evening as they evoked emotions through their performances. We hope to have them as one of our "house concerts" when we return home. The mayor of Portland, Tom Potter, not only welcomed us at the reception on Friday evening, but also gave the welcome to the conference on Saturday morning. Other public officials joined in this welcome, eloquently offering support for GLBT persons, and acknowledging the importance of PFLAG. Tom's wife, Karin Hansen, and his daughter, Katie, (a Portland Police Officer), also attended. Katie and her partner have two children. What a supportive family! They are all now wearing rainbow wristbands, and Tom told Dotti it was the best one he had ever received. He held his arm high in the air at the Saturday morning welcome, saying "Get your band from Dotti."
(L-R) Dotti, Mayor Tom Potter, Karin (Tom's wife),
Roby & Katie (Tom's daughter)
The conference headquarters, The Doubletree Hotel, was more than the hotel that tries to be hospitable. They were helpful at every turn. The staff at the front desk and bell captain’s desk agreed to don GISA rainbow wristbands! When we arrived on Thursday evening before we were to check in on Friday, they gave us a complimentary place to park our rig out front since it wouldn’t fit in the parking garage, as well as complimentary cookie before we checked in! We were allowed to park there throughout the conference, and gave “Scotty tours!” Rylee Joy was allowed to stay in our room per special permission of the manager.
After finally meeting Dr. Robert Minor, whose Fairness Project is making a difference, we are more impressed than ever with his work. In his workshop, he posed this question, “Why do I have to be understood to feel valuable?” It has a similar ring to what Dotti says, “It is most important for me to first understand myself, unattached to a specific outcome for relationship, recognizing that relationship is a gift, not an obligation. Being understood by someone doesn’t make me more valuable and being misunderstood doesn’t make me less valuable.”
Bob Minor offered a simple, but effective exercise opportunity called a “Listening Partnership.” Dotti says, “Relative to the above, the ‘need’ to be understood comes from a level of fear. The ‘desire’ to be understood comes from a level of love, and is a byproduct of what happens in the “Listening Partnership.” The partnership is something that every person deserves. It specifies that giving attention to the topic is what is going to help you, allowing you to become vulnerable.
Here is how you participate in a “Listening Partnership.” Two people commit to a certain amount of time (5, 10, 15 minutes) where they simply “sit and listen” to one another without interrupting. It is not necessary to give feedback or nod acknowledgement. One person simply “listens,” while the other person talks, or doesn’t talk. It is their choice. If the person talks a few minutes and then just sits, the other person continues to “affirm their space” until the time is up. It is not necessary to talk or be understood in order to feel valuable. The “listening” simply affirms the person. Click here for full explanation on "Listening Partnerships."
Sharing time with wonderful PFLAG parents and allies, as well as transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, bisexual, gay and lesbian persons at PFLAG events, offered a time for mutual celebration. More and more we are encountering people who want to move to a new level of authentic living in society, committed to taking the risks that entails. They realize that we can no longer count on those who have imprisoned us to set us free. Our intention of “engaging hearts and minds, creating authentic connections, and dissolving differences that separate us,” resonates with people and encourages them to step outside their own boxes of fear. The majority are willing to stop and ask, “Am I being authentic in this situation and/or with this person? Am I being the Gift that I am?” There is no “doing” in being the gift that we are. It is the expression of our essence, and the willingness to be vulnerable and open in relationship.
We presented a workshop called “Awakening to the Gift that I am.” Click here for a copy of ten empowering "Awakening to the gift that you are" principles we gave as a handout. We talked about four levels of relationship, and how our community of GLBTA (yes, allies too) can get caught in the first level of pseudo relationship, when we erect walls and don’t share on an authentic level. Click here for the “short details and description” of those four levels, if you are interested. A key question is, “Am I being empowered in this situation or encounter with this person?” A willingness to choose a different path if the answer is “no” creates transformation in the individual, and also opens up a new space for the other person to grow.
There is a distinction between the above. Needs comes from a level of fear, while desires comes from a level of love. Pseudo relationship comes from a level of fear, while authentic and genuine relationship comes from a level of love.
This reminds us of how we feel about not giving up hope about our own families one day being a part of PFLAG. We don’t “need” our families’ participation in order to appreciate and accept our own value. We do “desire” to one day see our families standing in a PFLAG conference, celebrating themselves, as well as us. It is sheer inspiration, giving us ongoing hope, to see these families celebrating together. One of those families consists of Robert and Kathy Reim (left) and their daughter, Rachel, and her partner, Tammy (below). Their July 4th wedding is coming up! Roby will do the wedding photography
, and Dotti will be officiating at her first wedding! This wonderful family was recently profiled with the story that Kathy wrote in the Pride Foundation's annual report.
(L-R) Dotti, Tammy & Rachel
Dotti offers an exercise that has some similar components to Bob Minor’s “listening partnership” in the sense that the safe space it provides affirms the person. This exercise is called “Sharing Withholds.” This exercise is important because what people “say” to one another is not necessarily what inhibits authentic relationship. Rather, it is often what people “withhold” that sometimes harms the essence of the relationship, particularly when it is a difficult communication withhold. Click here if you are interested in seeing how this exercise proceeds.
Following is a special Dotti wants to offer PFLAG folks. Her e-course, Shift2Relate™ and Attract Authentic Love (normally $89) is available to PFLAG folks for only $39. She is committed to supporting folks in their journey of learning to operate from a level of desire rather than need, and from a level of authentic and genuine relationship rather than from a level of pseudo relationship. If you want to see what it is about, click here, and then email dotti if you are interested, putting "PFLAG special offer" in the subject line. She will send you a user name and password so that you can take the course online.
Not only were we honored to present workshops, panels, and closing remarks at the conference, we enjoyed time with Cathy Angell and Ronna Biggs, our friends who drove from Bellingham, WA. They arrived on Saturday in the early evening, and stayed in our room with us. Ronna even captured Rylee Joy when she bolted out the door during the closing remarks session, running into the restaurant! Ronna and Cathy also loaded up our bikes, which were not in good shape from having been on the back of the Scotty, before treating us to lunch. We also got to spend time with our friend, Judy Osborne (left with Dotti), who was presenting at the conference. Dotti accompanied Judy to Thailand for GRS (gender reassignment surgery) in 2001.
Roby & Alyssa
Simone & Barb, whom we have mentioned in several previous newsletters (about being in Thailand for Simone's GAS...Gender Affirmation Surgery), invited us over for a delicous lamb meal on Sunday evening. We were also graced with the presence of our dear friends, Nicole and Renee. Renee is a MD with Kaiser Permente, and lives in Salem. Nicole lives in the Portland area, and works as a teacher (not in photo). We also had the privilege of meeting Barb's daughter, Kimberly, and Alyssa, who is from Kansas. Alyssa, Barb & Simone met in Thailand, as the two gals (Simone & Alyssa) had their gender reassignment surgery. Now, Alyssa is staying with Simone & Barb while she re-establishes her life in Portland. We've said it before and we'll keep on saying it, the transgender community is one of God's greatest gifts in our lives, and we feel blessed to call so many of you FRIENDS!
(L-R) Simone, Barb, Renee, & Dotti
On Tuesday evening, we enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by our friends, Kathryn Bode and her wife, Lauren (wearing glasses), in Pinole, CA. Dotti first met them at Fantasia Fair, a transgender conference in Provincetown, MA. Kathryn attended our wedding two years ago, right after making a career change to follow her dreams to become a professional chef. Now, Le Cordon Bleu Program Degree in hand, she is ready to delight people with her culinary creativity and skill.
Dinner with Chef Kathryn
Kathryn and Lauren's kitty, now a friend (well, sort of) of Rylee’s, is doing quite well with only
three legs, after having lost one two months ago from cancer.
At the time of writing, we are on the campus of Pacific School of Religion, whose mission is “Equipping historic and emerging faith communities for ministries of compassion and justice.”
John Davis, CFO and Treasurer of PSR is a wonderful man whom Dotti got to know through Central Baptist Church in Wayne, PA, and Soulforce. John invited us to come visit the PSR Campus, and we graciously accepted.
Rylee loves it here, since dogs are not only welcome, but celebrated! The campus is the off-leash dog park for the surrounding neighbors as well. Rylee met her match today, when Puffin, a beautiful Italian Greyhound invited her to a game of chase. Rylee looked a bit like Roby did when, at her 20-year Hoquiam High School reunion in 2004, she challenged Dotti to a game of “chase” on the roller skating rink. Roby thought to herself, “Hey, I’m 12 years younger than she, and I was a pretty hot shot skater as a kid… I can kick her butt!” Dotti was confident she could and would leave Roby in the dust… and she did. Picture this: Dotti skating along ever so gracefully and effortlessly, while Roby is huffing and heaving, lurching forward, unable to even get close to Dotti, then, while turning a corner (thinking she’s hot turning corners, too), takes a swan dive onto the rink floor, with her classmates looking on in hilarious disbelief! Roby learned a lesson that day: Twelve years don’t mean squat!
Roby first heard about Pacific School of Religion by Rev. Anita Cadonau-Huseby, owner and creator of Christian Lesbians website. In the spring of 2001, struggling with reconciling her spirituality and sexuality, Roby searched the web and found Anita’s site. Anita encouraged people to write and share their stories. At the time, Roby was so afraid someone she knew would discover her truth, so she wrote to Anita under the alias, “Maija Sundholm.” Anita wrote back, encouraging her to attend ConnECtions – the annual conference of Evangelicals Concerned. . Roby flew to Denver in the summer of 2001, and attended the gay-Christian conference, which was the first step in her journey to freedom. Roby also met Mary Lou and Bob Wallner at ConnECtions, which eventually led to meeting Dotti! John Davis just told us today at dinner that Anita is back on the PSR Campus, working with The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies' (CLGS) Marriage Project. Roby is looking forward to the possibility of seeing Anita while we are here on campus.
Dotti has debunked two more myths and added them to her article, From Myth to Empowerment...How GLBT can shift. Click here if you missed it.
Myth #11: You will only be happy if you are in a heterosexual relationship.
False...A 12 year study at The Gottman Institute in Seattle, WA, made some interesting discoveries. Their website says, "Using state-of-the-art methods while studying 21 gay and 21 lesbian couples, Dr. John Gottman (University of Washington) and Dr. Robert Levenson (University of California at Berkeley) have learned what makes same-sex relationships succeed or fail.
One key result: Overall, relationship satisfaction and quality are about the same across all couple types (straight, gay, lesbian) that Dr. Gottman has studied. This result supports prior research by Lawrence Kurdek and Pepper Schwartz: They find that gay and lesbian relationships are comparable to straight relationships in many ways." Click here to read the synopsis of that research.
If you are a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person, know that you are capable of having as good, or bad, a relationship as any “traditional relationship.” It is up to you, not family and/or society, to determine whether or not you can have a dynamic and empowering relationship.
Myth #12: Children do better when they are raised in a “traditional” home with “married” parents.
False...The truth is, the “traditional” definition of family (married heterosexual couple with 1.5 children) is only one of the many family structures that our country’s children are born into or currently being raised in. Studies have shown that the presence of a married father and mother is not a prerequisite to positive outcomes for children. Click here for entire article by Jennifer Chrisler, the executive director of Family Pride, the only national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to securing equality for LGBT parents and their families.
If you want children, do whatever it takes to create your own family!
Speaking of “traditional relationships,” we were listening to a show on Focus on the Family featuring Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott. Dotti found it interesting that these relationship experts, based in Seattle, WA, mentioned Dr. John Gottman and the “Love Lab” of the Gottman Institute (cited above).
Dotti: Don’t get me wrong. I was thrilled that they were talking about Gottman’s work, since he has done some amazing research with couples. I just thought it interesting, however, that Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott were speaking on a Focus on the Family radio show, and simultaneously citing the research of a man who has completed a 12 year study of 21 gay and lesbian couples, using his state-of-the-art methods. I am curious what James Dobson would think about that. How can you convey that Gottman is on the cutting edge with his research regarding heterosexual couples, and then continue to talk about gay and lesbian people, who make up one half of a same gender relationship, as being disordered and a perversion?
Gottman says, "We're about helping people to have good relationships. We take a moral stand only on that. We honor love when we find it." Click here to read more comments.
Marriage Equality? We won’t give up! Find your state marriage equality organization through the Equality Federation, and learn where your representative stands and how you can work with them to win support for the freedom to marry.
Coming soon! The Great American Road-Cast, podcasting the true adventures of Two Women and a Poodle on their year long journey, Gay Into Straight America. Dotti has now loaded the software to begin learning how to podcast. We will keep you informed, and let you know when you can download any of our shows!
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