|Stories of ConnectingThreads
And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
-- Anais Nin
Here you will read about some of the people we have met who acknowledge they know a gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender person, and how that has impacted their life in some instances. We call these "connecting threads."
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See how 10% of us affect 100% of our society. These "connecting threads" are like the elephant in the living room. We act as if these connecting threads of people are hidden and don’t exist as we continue to crash into the "elephant" of threads, bloodying ourselves, and driving wedges between families and friends with our “family secrets.” We want to bring light to these beautiful connecting threads; we want to name them, claim them, and acknolwedge them.
We began testing our "connecting threads" theory the day we committed to taking this journey. Thus far, every single new person that we have encountered knows a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person. And yet, many of those people say that these relationships are not acknowledged. Everyone knows we are in the world. It is time for all society to Stand UP, Speak OUT and affirm ourselves, acknowledging these connecting threads.
Below you can read about the "connecting threads" people we have been meeting along the way, even from the day we set our intention on May 9, 2005, to take this journey!
On May 12-14, we then spent the week-end at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island in our beautiful home state of Washington. Our friend, Shelly Varner, had gifted us with the week-end at this beautiful bed and breakfast facility. This is where we first began to test our Connecting Threads Theory.
- Diane, who had moved to Bellingham , WA from Sacramento, CA. For 30 years, she had dreamed of moving after retirement. We met her at breakfast that first day, began talking, shared about our journey, and asked her the question: Do you know a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender person? She said "I have a lesbian daughter." Bingo...Our "Connecting Threads Theory" was off and running! Diane shared how much she loved, AND ACCEPTED, her daughter. That is a distinction that not everyone "gets." People often say they "love" someone, but are unable to accept them and their relationship with a partner. Read Rylee Joy's Lesson #2 about love.
- Riley and Judy, who own the Willows Inn. www.willows-inn.com. The Willows Inn, on the sunset side of Lummi island, offers romantic beachside lodge rooms, cottage, and guest house accommodations and marine experiences on this most accessible of the San Juan Islands.
We were sitting and talking with Riley, as we basked in the afternoon sun on the patio, our journals and papers spread before us as we planned our journey, Gay Into Straight America. As we shared with him about our journey, we simply asked him the "connecting threads" question, to which he replied, "I have a lesbian daughter. Selina, who is a landscaper and lives with her partner in Marysville, WA." He went on to tell us how much his daughter means to him and that he totally accepts her for who she is.
Riley is playing guitar and Judy is to his right
- Johan & Marsha, who are partners. Marsha shared that she has a lesbian roomate.
- Bev & Renata, who are friends from Vashon Island. Bev is United Methodist and Renata is Espicopalian and was originally from Germany. When asked the "connecting threads" question, Bev shared that she knew several gay people at her church. We asked if they were a Reconciling Church, the group within the United Methodist Church that desginates a UM church as being "welcoming and affirming" if they choose. Bev admitted that, although they are welcoming, they were not an official Reconciling UM church. I (Dotti) then explained why I feel it is important to consider having that official status of being reconciling, as I shared with her the complaint I had filed because I was denied membership in Centenary United Methodist Church in Lexington, KY, simply for being lesbian, and for my refusal to "repent" in order to secue membership in the church.
- Mary Brady, who lives on Lummi Island. Her dad, Jim Brady, a Lutheran minister and an ally, lives in Pomeroy, Ohio. She has several gay/lesbian friends. She has a gay cousin who lives in Philly and just lost his partner to heart disease. Mary definitely has an open and compassionate heart for GLBT!
- Stephanie Van Valkenburgh (Cone was maiden name), who works at the Willows Inn Cafe. She has a 2 year old child and is married to Brendan. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she shares that she grew up Baptist, listening to Dobson and Bob Larson throughout her growing up years. Both, she says, gave her bad impressions of GLBT people. Now, she feels very accepting of GLBT people and has several friends who are gay. She can't understand why people don't accept one another, but admits that the teachings of her youth were very anti-gay and originally impacted her.
- Vic Early, who lives on Lummi Island. Vic shares that he has several gay friends, and doesn't see why this is an issue.
- Jan, who lives on Lummi Island. She turns out to be a Christian ally. She shared that her husband used to be homophobic. They lived on a boat in California, and she admits that they were originally afraid to go to Laguana Beach out of fear of AIDS and hearing that Laguana Beach was where a lot of gay people live. What changed them? Meeting a gay man named George at the dock where they had their boat. He became a friend, and their dock became known as the "dock that loved gays."
- Larry Smith, who lives on Lummi Island. Great guy! An engineering consultant who also is a winemaker. We went to his home before we left Lummi Island, and were treated to a tour, as well as enjoyed the fruits of his labor! His cousin, Rose and Pete, who live in Pennsylvania, lost their gay son, Charlie, to suicide about 7-8 years ago. Charlie was 18 or 19 he said at the time of his death. The suicide note said he had never been with men, but he was afraid he might be homosexual. The fears of society, put upon young people who are homosexual, continue to impact the lives of our youth.
- Lisa Stratton, who lives on Lummi Island. Lisa is an artist and natural health consultant who is bisexual.
Below: some of the "gang" that afternoon at the Willows Inn
left-right: Roby Sapp, Stephanie, Dotti Berry, Mary. Jan is on ground)
- During my week at Esprit, the transgender conference in Port Angeles, where I (Dotti) do groups for SO's (Significant Others) and transgender couples, Roby and I went out to dinner in town one night at the Wildfire Restaurant. We had some extraordinary experiences that evening, ranging from conversations with our server, to patrons who were dining. Stay tuned for our updates during that time!
- As we left Port Angeles, we noticed that World Mark has a resort nearby at Discovery Bay. Since we are World Mark owners, we decided to stop in and visit. We had a very empowering conversation wtih Jim Louthan, the project director. He has five daughters. We shared with him about our journey, and he was very supportive. His "connecting thread" is actually one of their staff people, Paula, who does training and lives in Bellue with her partner. This couple, like us, were married in Oregon. Stay tuned for more on that report!
On Memorial Day, we first travelled to Chelan, WA, to meet Lars Clausen (www.StraightIntoGayAmerica.com) During that time, we met the following "connecting threads" and the journey continues!
- Susan, the desk clerk at our hotel, The Apple Inn, in Chelan. As we checked into our hotel, we asked her "the question" for determining connecting threads. She said that her youngest nephew is gay, and yet nobody really "talks about this." She thanked us for asking, and then shared that two women, who work with her husband, are a same gender couple.
- Gaye, the hostess at Campbell's Resort in Chelan; turns out that her son is gay and lives in San Francisco with his partner. She is very supportive of her son, shares that she loves him dearly, and says she doesn't understand why people discriminate about GLBT persons.
- Patty, our server at breakfast at Campbell's Resort on Tuesday morning after Memorial Day; she shares that she has several gay friends, one of whom is Michael Hall.
- Jodie and George Harper, from Manson, WA. We met them after breakfast. They saw Lars Clausen (who we were having breakfast with), and we had the opportunity to meet them and share with them about our journey. They, too, know and appreciate numerous gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons.
On June 10-12, we travelled to Chelan, WA, and took at 2 1/2 hour boat ride to spend the week-end at Holden Village, celebrating the beginning of the tour of Lars Clausen, Straight Into Gay America, which was beginning on June 14. We also had the opportunity to meet his wife, Anne, and their children, KariAnna and Kai, as well as celebrate Lars' 44th birthday! What we didn't know was that they don't allow dogs in Holden Village, and we had Rylee Joy with us! That meant we couldn't get on the boat on Friday, after we had gotten up at 3 a.m. to leave home at 4 a.m. and be there in Chelan, WA in time to catch the 9:30 boat. No problem, we knew that the day would be an exciting journey wherever that took us! Chelan has built a reputation for its wineries, so we decided to go to one. First, however, we had to decide what to do about Rylee Joy, since it is hot on the east side of the state and we knew she couldn't stay in the car. What better time for a haircut for her?? We found a place that grooms dogs, and took her. The lady said we would have to be back by 2:30 to pick her up.
- Alonda, who was our server at the first winery we visited, Vin du Lac Winery. We talked wth her, told her about our journey and explained why we were in Chelan. We then told her how we had missed the boat and would go on Saturday to Holden Village, after putting Rylee Joy in a kennel Saturday morning. She said that she was in Chelan for the summer, but lives in Seattles, where she is finishing her Master's degree in International Communication. She said that she used to work as a nanny and that there had been a female-male, transsexual person who was a nanny with her. She went on to share that she was very accepting of GLBT persons, but that she wasn't sure how her boyfriend, who is a staunch Republican, feels. We decided that we would contacther when we travel through Seattle on our journey, and see if they can have dinner with us. She was excited about the opportunity.
- Anrika and Les, who are from Chelan. They were sitting at a table next to us at the Vin du Lac Winery, and we chatted with them over lunch and wine tasting. Anrika, it turns out, is the owner of the only fine dining restaurant in Chelan. The restaurant is Capers, and Les is a server at the restaurant. We decided we would go there for dinner, though our funds were meager. Splitting a meal and sleeping in the car, rather than securing a hotel room for the evening, became the solution!
We then ate at Caper's that evening! Check out how Rylee Joy was welcomed by Anrika! Anrika and Les are fabulous! Be sure and go to Capers for fine dining when you are in Chelan.
- The staff at the second winery we visited. They were awesome!
(L-R) Lupe Peterson, Roby Sapp, Dotti Berry, Rosalba Montes, Katie & Joslin Montes
- A wonderful family from Wenatchee, WA. There were four of them: a mother (JoAnn Charap), her daughter (Lorrie Charap), her son and his wife and baby (Bryan & Melissa Charap; the son had come in to visit from California). We first chatted with them at the Vin du Lac Winery. and then saw them again at Tsillan Cellars winery. Mrs. Charap invited us to visit their town on our journey, and attend their church, Trinity United Methodist Church. She said they are both welcoming and affirming. Each person said they knew a GLBT person, and celebrated the diversity of their lives.
- Gale Holmlund and Scott Ausend at Holden Village; what a wonderful couple! Again, they know GLBT people, at Holden, as well as other places. They will be returning to Chicago to live when their time at Holden is completed in September. Gale teaches 9th grade at Cicero, IL
- Erik Stevens, a wonderful transman who lives and works at Holden Village. Thank you for your courage, Erik in allowing people to know you at this wonderful Lutheran Center!
- Mary Lou and Bob Wallner, who lost their lesbian daughter to suicide, were visiting for 10 days in June, 2005. We had a workshop called "The Power In ALL of US...Creating a Greater Understanding about Marriage Equality." One day we took them to Mt. Baker in Washington on June 24, and stopped by the Mt. Baker Vineyards. Again, we asked the two ladies working there our "connecting threads" question: Do you know a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person?
Gail replied that her two best friends are gay.
Leah told us that her brother is gay.
- June 25, 2005 ... we go "inside" the Love Won Out Conference, put on by James Dobson and Focus on the Family.
These "connecting threads" continue to bond us to one another. People who want to divide us often say "10% of society are not GLBT person." Focus on the Family speakers claim that no more than 2% are gay. What does it matter whether it is 10% or 2%? The Constitution guarantees the rights of ALL Americans,. Discimination is discrimination and doesn't empower people. Equality does!
Following are some of the people we met:
John and Ellen, from eastern Washington, near Wenatchee; they are sitting next to Miriam Sapp, Roby's mother who decided to attend. We sit next to Roby's mother, and I introduce Roby as my spouse to John and Ellen. They are there, like Roby's mother, because they have a gay child. Rather than celebrating their good fortune, they look as if they have lost their last dime. The pain is obvious. They haven't been able to "see the light" eminating from the connecting thread which binds them to their child.
Diane Aldridge, who is attending with her friend. In answer to our question, she says that she was married to a gay man 30 years ago and has many GLBT friends. She says she is having trouble with the "absolutes" she is hearing from the speakers, as is her friend.
Carol Currier, who is the first person we meet that morning during the first break. She says she is there to learn because she has friends who are gay, and she wants to know how to "love" them.
- Germany - Gay Into Straight American goes to Europe!
Buddy, his wife, and 4 month-old baby, Grace, who we met when we spend several days in the London airport (overall, it took us an extra week to get back to the United States; we originally attempted to fly out of Berlin and were flying on buddy passes, which is standby)
As you will see from our events calendar, we will have some scheduled events throughout our journey; however, we are most committed to allowing everyday experiences of authentic connection to happen "easily and naturally." We want to remain open to attracting those who are wrestling with their understanding about GLBT persons.
An example of this attraction factor? Meeting Buddy, a minister was is starting a new church in the Anglican Church, is the Episcopal church in the U.S. We were not supposed to be in London. We should have been home 7 days ago instead of sleeping in the airport each night. Buddy told us that meeting us was causing him to wrestle with and assess his understanding, ideas, and beliefs about gay people. He told us that his friend in seminary had come out to him two years ago; when he did, Buddy told him he could not support him in his "lifestyle." He has not heard from his friend since. Buddy is a thoughtful and caring man, and we enjoyed our time with him and his family. He and Roby sat by one another on the flight from London to Atlanta (his wife and baby got on an earlier flight and I got on the one after Roby). During the flight, Buddy continued our ongoing conversation on faith and spirituality, and asked Roby many theological, as well as philisophical, questions. She simply shared how she felt and listened to his beliefs. We hope that our interaction will cause him to contact his friend and perhaps re-open the door to communication. If that should happen and their friendship is re-established, then our week of sleeping in airports will have made a difference. We would call it "Gay Into Straight America goes to London!" The point is this: we didn't go "looking" for someone who is wrestling with their understanding of GLBT persons. In the course of experiencing our everyday life, it simply happened. We look forward to many more opportunities such as this.
After Germany, we returned home to Blaine, WA, making final preparations to leave on our year-long journey, which kicked off September 11, 2005. The "connecting threads" experienced throughout our journey can now be read through our weekly newsletters. Click here. Go to the bottom of the page to read the initial newsletter, and then go up the page. The most current newsletter is always the first one at the top of the page.