Keep informed about our journey, Gay Into Straight America!  Each week, we send out a newsletter.  Below are links to the ones we have sent since the beginning of our year long journey, which began September 11, 2005.  The most current one is at the top.  Note:  The last newsletter for this journey will be the December, 2006 newsletter, since our year long journey will be over; however, Stand UP Speak OUT, Inc. will continue with other projects.  Gay Into Straight America was its initial one.  Click here and sign up to receive our newsletter that will come from Stand UP Speak OUT in 2007.  Those who have already been receiving this newsletter will automatically receive our Stand UP Speak OUT...Live Authentic newsletter.

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Transformation opportunities abound!
Apr 6, 2006

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


Victories keep coming in our home state of Washington!  Keep reading to hear about that.


This has been a non-stop week, not so much from traveling, but from speaking! From Washington D.C., we traveled to Richmond, Virginia.  From there, we traveled to the Philadelphia area, where we are basing out of the guest apartment at the home of Carol and Bill Nettleson.  Carol is a professor at Widener University, where Dotti is working on her doctorate. 


Bill Stayton & Rylee Joy




Arriving on Saturday evening, we pulled in, unhitched the trailer and immediately went to dinner at the home of Kathy and Bill Stayton, who have been happily married for 50 years.  Bill is head of the Human Sexuality Department at Widener, and officiated at our spiritual wedding on July 31, 2004.  Our friend, Dr. Susan Kaye, a sexologist who sometimes co-teaches classes with Bill, surprised us by being there.









Kathy Stayton...ever the faithful ally with a rainbow sticker on her car!












But…let’s get the horse before the cart and go back to Richmond.


Remember when we wrote about the couple (Bonnie & Rich) who waved and gave us the “thumbs up” while driving west in the Interstate in West Virginia?  We wrote in our newsletter that they had later sent an email saying, “We were the ones waving at you on the Interstate!  We went to your website and we love what you are doing…would you come speak in Richmond?”  As we told you, Bonnie is one of the advisors of the GSA group at the school where she teaches Earth History.  Bonnie got in touch with her friends and colleagues, and put together a wonderful group of people from the GSA, GLSEN and the local MCC church, which is where we spoke on Friday, March 31st.   


(L-R) Rylee Joy, Roby, Dotti, Bonnie & Rich 


We had a great group of people from the Richmond area, and beyond.  Several people attended from as far away as two hours to hear us speak.  We felt such a warm welcome by everyone, and felt blessed to have had the opportunity to meet new friends.  We were really impressed with the young people in attendance, who have begun GSA clubs at their schools.


Richmond youth ... aren't they a fun group?


Thanks to all of you who came to hear our stories and to support us.  Thank you for your generous love offerings and donations, which will go toward continuing the work of engaging hearts & minds, creating authentic connections and dissolving differences that separate us.  Thank you for being a part of our Gay into Straight America Team, and for joining with us to create change in our world through the expression of our love. 


Some of the Richmond group in attendance


Since Bonnie and Rich have five cats, we decided it would be best not to risk Dotti having an asthma exacerbation, so we were welcomed into the home of Christine Maggard, a local Lawyer.  Christine and her partner, Tara, (on far right of above pic) walked a 10K benefit walk on Saturday, so we didn’t get that much time to spend with them, but we did have a nice time talking and sharing on Friday after the event.  Precious, Christine’s white Toy Poodle, was leery about playing with “that huge black dog named Rylee,” but she didn’t mind snuggling up with us. 


(L-R) Dotti, Rylee Joy & Precious 


Trish was another of the coordinators for the event on Friday night.  Trish is a teacher and GSA advisor at her high school as well.  Trish and Roby enjoyed talking photography, since Trish, too, is a photographer.  Betty, Trish’s mom, is a delightful human being, and a faithful ally.  She supports Trish in everything she does, and extends her loving and genteel spirit wherever she goes.  She reminds us of wonderful Dorothy Angell, our host in Columbia, Missouri, and mother of our friend, Cathy Angell.   Those mother/daughter connections of support are inspiring!  


(L-R) Rylee Joy, Roby, Dotti, & Trish 


(L-R) Trish & Betty


Roby: I met one woman at the event, who, with tears streaming down her face, shared with me that the woman she has been seeing, is convinced that due to some unfortunate circumstances in her life, God is punishing her for loving a woman.  I recommended some books such as What God Has Joined Together:  A Christian Case for Gay Marriage; What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality; and Stranger at the Gate: To be Gay and Christian in America.   I also encouraged the woman to have her girlfriend go to our website and check out what Rev. Dr. Lisa Davison has to say about the Bible and Homosexuality.  In addition, I urged her to go to our website and write to our spiritual advisors with any questions about what the Bible does or doesn’t say about homosexuality.  A few days later, the woman I spoke with emailed and said, “I can't tell you what a breath of fresh air you and Dotti are.  I would love to talk more with you.”


Having had similar struggles in the past with being gay and Christian, I always feels such empathy for others who continue to struggle and live in their often times church inflicted, as well as self-inflicted, prisons.  


I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves me and celebrates who I am, and I have never had more peace nor experienced this much joy and blessing, since making the choice to live in freedom in November, 2001.  It is my prayer and hope that one day, all people of all gender identities and sexual orientations will know that who they are is wonderful, period.


For some people, based upon their interpretation (or someone else’s interpretation) of scripture, to say that I’m not in the center of God’s will, or that I am not right with God is simply not OK, and yet, I don’t let it trigger me into a reaction, because it just isn’t true and doesn’t apply to my life or my experience. 


Many people are so afraid to come out of the closet and live an authentic life for fear of what they might lose.  If you missed Dotti’s writing from last week, Ten Myths about GLBT, click here to read it.    I had similar fears.  I was convinced that I would lose my family, my friends, and my church.  Did that happen?  A resounding NO.  I did lose some Christian friends, who chose to disassociate with me, but what I lost paled in comparison to what I gained in the renewal of old friendships, as walls were taken down, as well as the joy of new friendships.  As for my family, some would like the “old Robynne” to come back, even though that “old Robynne” was a farce.  Some would like to be in relationship with someone who really didn’t exist because it was more comfortable.  Others in my family, albeit very few, have embraced me and celebrated the emergence of the “real Robynne.” 


Would I do it again if given the chance?  A resounding YES!  I had so much fun and felt such exhilaration in coming out of the closet, living in freedom, and breathing fresh air, that I wish I could do it again!  So for anyone out there who is afraid to live their authentic selves for fear they might lose something or even everything, I say, “It’s worth the risk of losing something or even everything for the life and freedom you will gain!”  Carpe Diem!


Now, back to the cart! We left Richmond and traveled onto Philadelphia. Basing out of one place has been helpful.  It has allowed us to be in the area for Dotti to do groups at IFGE (International Foundation for Gender Education), as well as enjoy our speaking engagements and add on a few more since we are in town for more than just a day or two. 


We spoke three times this past Sunday.  We began by speaking at a Marital Relationships class at Widener University, followed by a talk at Central Baptist Church, sponsored by the local Soulforce group and this dynamic welcoming and affirming church.  Central Baptist Church was Dotti’s home church when she commuted to Philadelphia from Lexington, KY, as she worked on her doctorate in Human Sexuality.  After attending the service on Sunday morning, the opportunity to share about our journey that afternoon continued the homecoming party and felt particularly sweet.  This welcoming and affirming Baptist church, that celebrates GLBT persons, serves as haven of refuge for many.  Marcia Bailey and Marcus Pomeroy, two amazing co-pastors whose ministry of collaboration for ten years has propelled the church, serving as a model for churches of the future.


Some of the Central Baptist & Soulforce Philadelphia group, as well as others


The third time on Sunday was a speaking engagement at Fusion Baptist Church in downtown Philadelphia.  Two heterosexual pastors, Harry & Jeri, felt compelled three years ago to begin a church, as an outreach from their already established church, to GLBT in the inner city.  Fusion Baptist meets in a Lutheran church.  Ironically, shortly after Jeri got on board, her son shared that he is gay.  She said she fears how she might have treated her son had she not just pushed beyond her comfortable boundaries to start this new church.


Harry, Roby, Dotti & Jeri



A few folks from Fusion Baptist Church group


The one night we didn’t stay in our guest apartment was on Monday, when we were hosted by Peggy Campolo.  She treated us at her favorite Thai restaurant, where we engaged in wonderful conversation.  Peggy, (a long-time GLBT ally) and Dotti first met in 1999 in Lynchburg as they stood vigil with Soulforce to confront Rev. Jerry Falwell about his religion based oppression against GLBT persons.  Many will recognize her as the wife of speaker, Tony Campolo, whose books and speaking has touched many with his commitment to social activism. 
Though Tony continues to speak on behalf of fair treatment for GLBT, he and Peggy do have some distinct differences.  They have spoken at many churches around the country, helping people look at how it is possible to think differently on this particular issue and still stay married! (:  Click here to read Peggy’s story, which she has written for Dotti’s book, Rainbows for GLBTA.  Dotti continues to collect stories for this book, which reflects how people push past tragic experiences they have encountered through living their authentic life to move to a new and empowered level of acceptance of themselves. 


(L-R) Roby, Rylee Joy, Peggy & Dotti 


On Tuesday, we were again treated to a wonderful meal and evening by a friend of Dotti’s, Dr. Michele Angello. Michele was recently featured on Larry King Live: TransAmerica and Transgender. Michele, an expert in the field of transgender, speaks eloquently in answering the questions asked by many in our society and framed by Larry King. Michele gave us a copy of that show and we hope to soon have it ready for viewing on our website. We were also excited to meet Michele’s partner, Marla, as well as Michele’s sweet 16 year-old daughter, Mara.  What a wonderful family they are!  As Roby told Mara, “We might have had 10 kids if we thought they would all be like you!”   We can't believe we don't have a pic of this family...stay tuned...we will include them in next week's newsletter.

Speaking of families… on Wednesday, February 22, there was an article in the USA Today Life section with this headline “Study: Family ties ‘as strong as ever’” Google it if you want to read. Our conclusion is that it’s working.  People coming out to their families means that we are talking more and making them stronger! (:  OK, we aren’t going to try and “skew” this research to suit our purposes; however, it is  interesting that with all the talk about how we are ruining family values, family ties are “as strong as ever.” Give it some thought and let us know what you think!

Mara, Michelle’s daughter, will be attending our talk on Friday evening at the Mainline Youth Alliance group.  Remember, our youth are not just our hope for the future, they are our hope for today!  We are also hoping to finally go see Transamerica afterwards. 


Speaking of Transamerica, we are still seeking a way to personally give Dolly Parton her Stand UP Speak UP Award.  Connections anybody??? 


In addition, the following is information we received from Equal Rights Washington about another victory in Washington State:  


Metropolitan King County Council passes transgender nondiscrimination protections on Monday.


The measure, approved by a 5-4 vote, adds gender identity/expression to laws already prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, sex, race and religion.

A statement released by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force stated:

"We congratulate all those who helped ensure passage of this law, particularly the Coalition for Enforceable Discrimination Laws, which was undaunted in its efforts to secure this equality despite obstacles that cropped up along the way," said Seattle resident Marsha Botzer, Task Force board co-chair and Equal Rights Washington board member. "The Task Force is proud to have been part of this important progress by providing research and information through its Transgender Civil Rights Project. We were able to instantly refute opposition arguments in the hearing on the measure largely because of this critical information."


Wednesday brought a morning of relaxation when we were treated to our wedding gift from two years ago!  Dr. Susan Kaye, formerly a massage therapist, now a sexologist, treated us to the wedding gift she promised us.  That was followed by lunch with Susan and Landi Turner, a friend of Dotti’s.  Landi is now close to finishing her doctorate work in Human Sexuality at Widener.  Landi teaches at Eastern University, where the Equality Riders will soon visit.  They will be visiting Eastern on April 24.  Click here for more details on how you can participate. On March 29, they visited Texas A & M, where the Equality Riders held a demonstration about the military's "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" policy, sporting their newest shirts, "Would you serve with me?"  Check out pictures from their stop. Dotti has produced all the apparel for the Equality Ride.  If you need logoed items of any kind, she can help your organization too. Visit Phoenix Communications and check out the online catalogs.  You can email her by clicking here.


Though we thoroughly enjoyed our time with Peggy Campolo, our only disappointment was that we were unable to accept an invitation to speak to the recently formed GSA club at Eastern University.  We met Eastern students Emily and Mandy, who will be involved in welcoming the Equality Riders to their campus, at the talk we did at Central Baptist Church.  Mandy, who started the GSA club at Eastern, invited us to speak again the next time we are in town.   


(L-R) Roby, Landi, & Dotti


Roby, Susan & Dotti

Wednesday evening, we were asked by Dr. Susan Kaye to speak to her Human Sexuality class.  What a great and energized group of people wanting to learn! We offered rainbow wristbands to anyone in the class who wanted one, reminding them that wearing it is a commitment to "creating authentic connections and having deeper conversations in whatever way that opportunity presents itself in your life."  Even people who are "unsure" and "wrestling" with what they believe about GLBT persons, marriage equality, inclusion, etc. can still wear one.  When their rainbow wristband is noticed, they can say, "Yes, I am still wrestling with my understanding...I am committed to having conversations about this.  What do you think?  Can we talk?"  It is an OPENING to engaging with others, not the creation of a new box! 


Dr. Susan Kaye's Human Sexuality Class at Montgomery County College


Thumbs up…connections with everyday people during this past week:


On a street corner as we left Richmond, Virginia, “Lady Liberty” (a man dressed as such to bring attention to the tax business there) wished us good luck after asking about our sign, giving us a thumbs up as we drove off.


We tried to go through I-895 tunnel from Baltimore heading to Philly.  They wouldn’t allow us through because of our propane tank, so we had to backtrack and go over I-695 (Key Bridge). As we were heading north on I-95 from there, a car pulled up on our left and gave us the thumbs up sign.  Then they pulled up on our right and did it again.  We let the window down so that the two women could see Rylee Joy.


At a filling station in Woodbridge, VA, we met Crystal as she was filling her tank.  She asked about our signs on the suburban, and we explained what we were doing.  She wished us well.


As we walked through King of Prussia Mall in Wayne, PA (outside of Philadelphia), we were searching for the Foot Locker store.  Roby had been attempting to return a pair of discounted tennis shoes that hurt her feet since we had been in Florida.  As we passed through the fragrance department of Macys, asking directions to the Foot Locker, a lady asked if we were into dog training as she looked at our jackets and spotted Rylee.  After sharing about our journey, we met Mari.  She is an actress and just finished a role where there were two Standard poodles dressed in tuxedos with rhinestones and top hats.  Rylee Joy, once again our connecting thread! She excitedly took our card and said she would tell people about our website.  In addition, she invited us to catch her one woman show “Katherine Hepburn” next time we are in town, saying that she would email us.


We continued through the mall, stopping and looking at the massage items at a kiosk.  The gentleman who ran the cart engaged with us.  Originally from the Soviet Union by the Black Sea, he shared that Americans aren’t nearly as open to people’s differences related to sexual orientation as people are in Europe.  Interesting, however, is what he shared next when talking about gay men.  Genado commented that it “hurt his soul” when gay men “come onto him.”   I wonder if he ever thought of doing what women often do when receiving an unwelcome approach from a man…“Thanks, but no thanks.” 


This reminds me of what Roby said about Peoria, Illinois, when we encountered the rains, winds and thunderstorms close to tornado like conditions which were raging to the south of us.  She said, “Peoria scared the shit out of me.”  How similar is it to when someone encounters a gay person who scares the shit out of them.  Fear puts us in a vulnerable place.  When that happens, we often want to rail against that which scares us, and makes us feel as if we aren't "controlling" our environment.  That we can is often an illusion.  What is can control, and allow to empower us, is how we respond to what happens in our environment.


We continue to hear from people we have met along the way.  Ann, one of the hospitality directors at Koinonia, recently wrote and shared the following devotional, sharing how she pushes past fear.  Dotti asked her if we could share it in our newsletter.   Click here to read Ann's devotional.


We would say that these steps to which Ann refers to in her devotional are not “smaller” or “larger” to the ones Michael was talking about, but are interrelated.  They are inseparable.  The dualistic way of looking at life makes us think that something we do is not quite as important a step as one that someone else takes.  We think not!  They are all important, for each one of us is part of the interconnectedness of our world.  This expresses the daily opportunity we are manifesting on our journey through living out, "We vow to change the world through the expression of our love."  Commit to living out the seven "soul force" principles this week.  They are also called "truth force" and come from Gandhi's term satyagraha.


Thought for the day:  People of high levels of personal mastery do not set out to integrate reason and intuition.  Rather, they achieve it naturally -- as a by-product of their commitment to use all the resources at their disposal.  They cannot afford to choose between reason and intuition, or head and heart, any more than they would choose to walk on one leg.  Peter Senge (Fifth Dimension)