We are a little late this week with sending our newsletter. From car issues to poor internet connections, we encountered some "challening opportunities!" As usual, when we choose to live in the moment, unattached to a specific outcome, we allow life to unfold.
We were privileged to meet Joe while in Columbia. As we describe that encounter with him, you will discover the importance of talking with those who are wrestling with their understanding about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. We were able to watch Joe soften right before our eyes as together we engaged our hearts and minds, creating an authentic connection with one another. This also happened with Franc, a retired Presbyterian minister, who apologetically handed us what he had written as a rebuttal for Gay Into Straight America, admitting that he had done so before hearing any words we had to share.
Dorothy Angell was responsible for bringing us to Columbia, MO. Dorothy is the mother of Cathy Angell. Cathy and her partner, Ronna Biggs, are dear friends in Bellingham, WA. Dorothy was instrumental in starting the Columbia PFLAG Chapter, and continues to work hard for justice and equality, not only with her involvement in PFLAG, but in her Presbyterian Church. Dorothy is truly an angel… as her name implies. J
Staying the week in Dorothy’s home was such a blessing considering the below freezing temperatures outside (about 30 degrees below normal for this time of year). Not only would it have been a cold week in the Scotty, we would have been without water. Our pipes froze in our Scotty before we arrived in Columbia. They finally thawed once the snow and temperatures (which dropped to 1 degree) warmed. Thankfully, there were no cracks or leaks. Having replaced our hot water heater before the beginning of the trip, we knew the expense that would entail.
When we stepped into Dorothy’s warm apartment and discovered two “care packages” one from PFLAG LA Moms Joellen and Melinda, and one from friends Cathy and Ronna, we felt nurtured and loved.
PFLAG Meeting, Newspaper, Radio, Freedom To Serve, and other GISA Activities in Columbia, Missouri
We spent last Wednesday morning, December 7th, having the honor and privilege of being interviewed by Marcia Vanderlip. She wrote a great story about our GISA Journey for the Columbia Tribune, capturing its essence...creating authentic connections. It was a full page article with picture of us holding Rylee Joy, as well as a picture of our Purple Suburban pulling the Scotty. We hope to have that on our website by our next newsletter.
That same day, we also had a radio interview at 1 p.m. with Beth Derenne of KOPN in Columbia. We hope to soon have that hour-long interview on our website. We will let you know when that is available.
Dotti and Beth Derenne, host of radio show on Women's Issues on KOPN
By Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m, we were on our way to another speaking engagement. We were privileged to meet with the Freedom to Serve Partnership, a group of Presbyterian Ministers who have been meeting now for around 8 years, dialoguing and discussing GLBT inclusion in the church. We were so inspired and encouraged by these women and men who are working for justice and equality. In many ways, they are faced with similar issues as GLBT persons. They risk losing their congregations and position as a pastor if they stand up and speak out on our behalf. Dotti asked them, "If you don't lead, who will?" At the end of a full day, Dotti had two coaching appointments with clients in Texas and Washington.
On Thursday, December 8th, we spoke at PFLAG in Columbia. It was a miracle anyone showed up with the snow and cold weather. Thank you to those who braved the elements! PFLAG parents Linda & Clayton Hayes bought 50 rainbow wristbands to hand out to people! President Steve Clayton, and his partner Alan Jones, and Linda and Clayton are considering joining us in Colorado Springs next July with Soulforce. PFLAG Mom Joanne and her son, Eddie, also joined us. Bruce Alspaugh, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Mid-Missouri LGBT Coalition, attended and gave us a copy of a DVD, Three Moms of Gay Sons (one Mom is PFLAG Mom Joanne). It was produced by the coalition and presented by Open Door Ministry at Missouri United Methodist Church in Columbia, Missouri. Click here to purchase a copy.
What a great group at PFLAG Columbia
L-R: Steve Clayton, Linda & Clayton Hayes, Dotti, Roby, Dorothy Angell, Alan Jones, and
Bruce Alspaugh (in back)
On Friday, December 9th, Steve Clayton (PFLAG president in Columbia) took us on a tour of the UM Campus, and downtown Columbia. We visited the LGBT Resource Center (headed by wonderful ally, Adam Brigham), and the Women’s Resource Center (where Struby shared lots of info about the center), and had great conversations with both students and staff. We were back on the UM campus for a transgender youth meeting before we left.
LGBT Center folks with us at University of Missouri
Dotti, Adam & Roby
On Friday evening, when the temperature was 5 degrees, we made the unfortunate discovery that our Suburban had become “ill” again. We took our Purple Suburban to Mutrux Automotive in Columbia, first to have the antifreeze checked, and second, to have the “symptoms” checked. When Ross, the owner, opened up the reservoir, and dipped his “checker” in, he could not even reach any fluid. He said, “This isn’t good… there’s nothing in there!” He added a gallon of antifreeze so that the rig would survive the overnight temperature prediction of 1 degree, and said to return the next morning for a diagnosis. Around noon on Saturday, Ross called us with the bad news: A severe leak in the manifold intake gasket. Estimated cost to repair: $425. Due to his busy schedule, Ross said he might not be able to work on the rig until Wednesday.
On Sunday evening, PFLAG parents Linda & Clayton Hayes treated us to dinner at Shakespeare’s Pizza in Columbia. They were right when they said, “You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to have Shakespeare’s Pizza while in Columbia.” During dinner, we were talking about justice and equality, and the importance of the work we are all doing to attain such, when Linda said, “This is a cause I will die for!” Linda & Clayton have two kids – a son, who is gay, and a daughter who is not. These parents are incredible and so inspiring to us as they work tirelessly for our inclusion in the church, as well as for equal rights and protections. Thank you, Linda & Clayton for your example and for your commitment to justice and equality!
Our original plans were to leave Columbia Monday morning, December 12th and travel to Little Rock & Cabot, AR to be with Mary Lou and Bob Wallner (the couple who lost their lesbian daughter to suicide, and who introduced us). When we began this journey, we committed to being unattached to a specific outcome. Therefore, we really work on exercising patience and trust when unexpected things happen. We trust that there are reasons beyond our understanding why certain things happen they way they do.
Looking at our schedule, we made the decision to take our Purple Suburban to Privitt’s where they could have it ready by Tuesday. Thank you, Ross, owner of Mutrux Automotive, for your kindness and excellent service. Doug, at Privitt’s, continued that same good service.
Before we went to Mutrux to pick up the purple, we stopped by Charlie Winston’s home to take him some bananas from Dorothy Angell. What a great couple Dorothy and Charlie are! They have been dating for 15 years, and met at Trinity Presbyterian Church. We stayed about 20 minutes and had a nice visit with him. Unbeknownst to us, this was all a part of things being able to be put into place for a neat encounter that was about to happen.
While at Charlie’s, he told us that he wanted to help us out with the cost of repairs on our Purple Suburban. In addition, on Saturday, before we even knew how much the repairs would be, Dorothy also said she intended to help us out with the repair bill. We are so grateful for such kind and generous friends! We are being given many opportunities on this journey to learn how to be gracious receivers! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, Dorothy and Charlie! Your generosity, support and love have touched us in ways words cannot adequately describe.
Dotti, Charlie, Roby & Rylee Joy
Dotti, Dorothy & Roby
Back to the “encounter…” We were filling up the gas tank at Mutrux (thank you, Dorothy!), after picking up our ailing suburban which had been fixed in Columbia, Missouri. The Scotty trailer was not attached since the rig had been in the shop, and thus the sign on the back of the purple suburban was clearly visible. A man noticed the GayIntoStraightAmerica.com signs. Before making a move to pump his gas, he approached Roby and angrily said in a disgusted voice, “Excuse me… what is GayIntoStraightAmerica.com?” Roby paused, knowing it was time to quickly collect her thoughts and take a deep breath as this man stood inches from her face. Only seconds to make a connection! After pausing to feel the sting of his words, Roby replied, “It’s a journey my spouse and I are taking around the country, speaking with people who are wrestling with their understanding of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Our goal is to engage hearts & minds and create authentic connections with people. In doing so, we believe that many of the differences that separate us dissolve.”
With the same disgust in his voice, he replied, “Well, I am a Christian, and I really struggle with this. What do you have to say to me?” Roby said, “Great, we are people of faith too, and we understand that many people struggle… that is why we are doing this journey.” Roby asked his name and he replied, “Joe.” She then introduced herself, and asked, “Would you come over and meet Dotti?” Strange as it may seem, Joe agreed, and Roby took him by the arm and led him over to where Dotti was sitting in another car we had driven to pick up the suburban.
We began to ask Joe questions about his life, to inquire about him, and then listen. Joe said that he was brought up Catholic, but became disillusioned with that religion, and is now a Baptist. To Joe’s credit, he admits that he is prejudiced and that it bothers him. He explains that he “cops an attitude” (his words) when he encounters people with whom he doesn’t agree. He spoke of a person in his church (who he thinks is a cross-dresser, but is most likely a pre-op or post-op transsexual), and he said every time he sees them in church, he often has thoughts and feelings like, “Why should they be allowed in here?!?” We had an opportunity to educate him about the wonderful transgender community, and also allowed him to sit with the obvious discrepancy of his "love for Jesus" and the diminishing words he expressed.
As Joe sat in the gap, he suddenly began to soften, putting his hand over his heart and admitting that some people midjudge him because of the color of his skin. Joe is Latino. Dotti said to him, "Joe, you are right. Some people do judge you, and that's not fair. They haven't even gotten to know what a great guy you are." Joe softened more. (Dotti often says that Joe turned to “butta,” the southern word for butter.)
Apparently, being Latino and a very large and somewhat angry looking guy sometimes causes people to have preconceived ideas about him. None of that mattered to us… what we saw was a human being, a child of God, who is probably more similar to us than different, but who some may look at and instantly judge, discriminate and even hate… just because of the color of his skin, and the way he looks.
His honesty and transparency enabled us to see right through the hard external shell, which, for some, may be frightening. We acknowledged Joe for his honesty and awareness and for being courageous enough to ask himself the hard questions, like, “Why do I feel such hatred for people who are different?” and for being courageous enough to approach us with the question, “What is GayIntoStraightAmerica.com?”
Joe told us, “I am going to go visit my pastor today. We need to have a conversation, and I want to talk to him about meeting with you all.” Since Joe first approached Roby in an angry voice, saying “What do you have to say to me, because I am really struggling with this?” and later did a 180 to the point of wondering about resources we might have, we gave Joe our card, encouraging him to visit our website and check out the resources, particularly, “What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Homosexuality” by Rev. Dr. Lisa Davison.
Joe walked back across the parking lot to finally pump his gas. He walked taller and with a happy gait and was a more empowered person. We were empowered as well by the encounter. We got back in the suburban, looked at one another, and at the same time with both thumbs up, said "YES!" We suddenly knew why we were supposed to go by Charlie’s to deliver the bananas and spend some time visiting. It was all a part of the bigger picture, and being at the right place at the right time to meet Joe. J
Dotti then said to Roby, "Think how different that encounter would have been if you had said to Joe, 'Hey, buddy, get out of my face.' Joe would have left thinking, 'Those gay people. They are just like I thought they were.' And we would have a story that supports what many people think about people who are anti-gay. And none of it would have really been true. It would only have been subjective reality…the reality we perceive to be true."
We knew we had experienced spiritual magic. It happens when we refuse to confront fear with fear, and instead give love to fear. When that happens, light overcomes darkness, and in that moment, souls connect beyond differences through authentic connections. It was a re-enactment of our own neighborhood story, one of the catalysts for our journey, and felt just as good!
Connection from Bellingham
Before we arrived in Columbia, we received an email from a gal named Amber. She and her partner, Rebecca, live in Columbia. Amber explained in the email that she heard about us coming into town, and she wanted to meet us. Amber is originally from Twisp, WA, and lived for several years in Bellingham! We had a great time connecting with Amber and Rebecca on Saturday, and discovered that we even know some of the same people in Bellingham. Thank you, Amber & Rebecca, for contacting us, for showing us around UM and for the joy of new found friendships.
Rebecca, Amber, Dotti & Roby
We want to mention that on Sunday, Dec. 11th, we attended Trinity Presbyterian Church. Although their church is not yet a More Light Presbyterian Church, Michael Adee, field organizer for the More Light group, will be visiting the area in May. The timing might be right for Dorothy to continue to lead the way for her church. As in most churches, there are those who welcome, embrace and affirm GLBT persons. Rev. Massey, the pastor at Trinity Presbyterian, is a part of the Freedom to Serve Partnership and was hospitable to us. We had an opportunity to meet and talk with other supportive people at church that morning. Similar to many churches, there are some who are very anti-gay, such as Franc Guthrie, the parish associate. Franc came in a the end of the ministers’ meeting on Wednesday, just in time to deliver a paper to us with his thoughts on Gay Into Straight America. He was almost apologetic as he handed it to us, saying, “I wrote this before I heard you speak.” What he heard was very little since he came in at the end for about 10 minutes. We honored him by reading his entire paper, hoping that we would “hear his thoughts.” Unfortunately, it contained copied bits of James Dobson’s words that we have often read from people. We were hoping for “new insight.” Nevertheless, we sought out Franc on Sunday, so that we could speak with him and engage in conversation. From church, we went to lunch with Dorothy and several women at the church, before attending the production of A Christmas Carol at the University. What a great reminder about the true meaning of Christmas…connections with other people!
This reminds us that the holiday season (whether you are a person of faith in any way or not a person of faith), is the perfect time for connecting with one another in more authentic ways, having deeper conversations, and allowing that process to dissolve the differences between us. As many have experienced, this is sometimes not the case. Our commitment for ourselves is to stay committed to this process, without being attached to a specific outcome. This allows us to keep from being stuck in judgment and disappointment.
Dotti: Here’s an example: I shared that I had asked my mother to attend the Atlanta PFLAG meeting, where we are speaking on Sunday, December 18 (it begins at 2 p.m.). Click here for directions and more information. She had not responded “yes or no,” leading me to ask her again. She replied that she couldn’t because she is in charge of the Joy Lunch at church that day. I later called her again, and asked her if she would consider asking someone else in the church to take her place and be in charge. East Point Presbyterian Church, where I grew up, is a very small church, with a small congregation. Most of the people are older, and Mom often feels she is one of the few available to help in this way. She replied that she couldn’t do that.
My point is that I have to dare to have the courage to ask, even when there is the possibility that I will not receive the outcome that I would prefer. If I can ask anyway, without attachment to the outcome, I can feel the pain, but also move beyond the pain without having it grip me in a toxic way. Yes, I had my cry after the phone call. Having Mom attend her first PFLAG meeting feels important to me. It doesn’t, however, diminish my desire to keep asking for what I want in my life.
Finally, with our Suburban running smoothly once again and packed for our journey, we left Columbia on Wednesday. We spent last night (Wednesday, Dec. 14th) in Branson, Missouri, in the parking lot of Skaggs Hospital. Why the hospital? The city of Branson doesn’t allow overnight parking in the Wal-Mart! We also received a bonus when we discovered that we could connect into free WiFi. We got this tip of staying in hospital parking lots from one of the ladies at our meeting with PFLAG, COLAGE, and Families First in Tulsa. Thanks for the tip! This morning, the WiFI had low conductivity, so we headed to Panera Bread. We have been frequenting this business wherever we go after reading in the USA Today that they offer free WiFi. Plus…we LOVE their food! When Roby went to the counter to buy our favorite coffee drinks, she met Goef, the manager at Panera Bread in Branson, who also turned out to be from Seattle, and lived at one time in Bellingham while attending WWU. Ah, the connections continue! Geof was so kind, and very affirming, stating, “I think it’s great what you two are doing!” and “Meeting you two this morning has just made my day!” When we asked if he would like to don one of our rainbow wristbands, explaining that it represents a commitment to creating authentic connections and having deeper conversations with one another, he took it immediately and put it on.
Dotti, Goef, and Dotti
Something to think about: If 98% of Fortune 100 companies give the same benefits to same gender couples that they give to mixed gender couples, why do we allow the “vocal minority” to frighten us and steal our power by keeping us silent? This statistic shows that the “vocal minority” is not in charge. Let’s recognize this and mobilize the movable middle.
Just as I wrote this, I received an email from PFLAG saying, “ PFLAG Commends Ford Ad Decision, Emphasizes Extremist Organizations Not to Be Tolerated.” Check out this link to see how this action supports the above thought.
Right after that, I received the following from GLAAD. Check it out!
The Houston Voice did an update article on our journey after we spoke at PFLAG in Houston recently. Click here to read it! If you click on the above link after they have changed their articles, you can read it at this link on our website.
Our Inner Ape – This book mentions Adam Smith, the pioneering economist who, two centuries ago, noted the kind of empathy that rests on the ability to imagine the circumstances of another. He offered us the most enduring definition of empathy as “changing places in fancy with the sufferer.” Have you ever thought that those who are so virulently anti-gay are suffering? Can you imagine what their anger is doing to them? As much as many GLBT suffer from the anti-gay teachings of many religious institutions, as well as from society’s backlash, this holiday season is also a good time to “change places in fancy with the sufferer,” those who are anti-gay and fearful of us. We can be committed to forgiving them for their lack of understanding, realizing that they are victims of the teachings within many of our religious institutions and much of our society. We can also be determined to engage hearts and minds, create authentic connections, and dissolve the fears and differences that separate us, creating our own empowerment zone.
We are in Cabot, Arkansas (just outside of Little Rock), staying in the home of Mary Lou and Bob Wallner, who introduced us. Tonight we will speak at their church, New Beginnings, before speaking at PFLAG Little Rock tomorrow. We will then travel to Atlanta where we will speak at PFLAG Atlanta. We hope to have the opportunity to meet Kerry Pacer while we are in town, as well as her Mom, a big PFLAG supporter. If you haven't heard, Kerry was named "Person of the Year" by The Advocate Magazine. Her insistance at being treated fairly at her rural high school in northeast Georgia changed her entire town.
Our next newsletter will come out at the end of next week. While in Atlanta (East Point, Georgia, to be more specific), we will stay at the home of Dotti’s mother, Marilu Johnson. It is also Dotti’s childhood home. We will enjoy that time and “take a breather,” reporting from Florida after the New Year! Not a bad place to be in January on our journey! (:
Stay tuned for more adventures of Two Women & A Poodle!
The light in us honors the light in you! Dotti, Roby & Rylee Joy