Friday, October 15, 2010

love won ou.t--NOT

Back in 2003 or 2004 K and I "infiltrated" a love won out conference (you know the movement founded by focus on the families james dobson? you know that movement that says we are sinful, psychologically damaged, ill-equipped to raise children humans? You know what I am talking about right? the whole ex-gay movement? and while it may be laughable to many of us, it is a truly damaging, hate-filled, movement) held at a church in south eastern michigan. We went as non-violent observers (slash if we could get a conversation in with a struggling parent, good).

with all of the backlash against queers lately and the recent suicides of young folks who were forced to struggle due to who they were or perceived to be and the reemergence of a scarier christian right (ya, i think it is scarier), i thought i would post my reflections from way back then. My good friend was in town recently and he reminded me that these reflections even existed. Some day soon when more time becomes my friend again, I'll reflect more on this reflection.
Here it is:

We woke up tired and groggy—not so ready to face the difficult day before us. I turned over and kissed the sweet skin of my bird; her shoulders and face shone yellow gray in the morning glow. I stepped into the driving hot water of the shower and scoured the sleep from my eyes. Clear-headed. I needed to be as clear minded as possible for the day’s events. As the water woke me from the garbled moments of rising, the burden of the future hours filled my chest.

We took no breakfast. Our stomachs were in knots.

I went with so many expectations. I went with the desire to talk to people—to share with people that being a lesbian was not bad and sinful but a beautiful gift. I wanted to express that the love and care I hold for my partner is deep and rooted. K and I have searched into the blankest parts of one another and foraged for meaning and truth. We have discovered the bounties of loving in what we had only perceived as absences. We have found abundance amidst the famine of previous loneliness and struggle.

Not to say that the struggle is over, but we have joined together in our own community of partnership to press on and to work for justice. We have developed a stronger sense of what it means to love in this world through the love we share. I have grown to understand, in part, the meaning of loving so much as to be able to lay down your life for another person.

I have held my love in my arms as she wept over her dying mother. A mother she loved and shared life with. A mother not separated and distant, not cold and dominant, but a mother who was carefree and caring—a mother who called up beauty on canvas and paper and in the lives of her children.

I have held my love and wept as I pondered the thoughts of what the lump in her breast might be. I have wondered at life in the possible absence of her being, and I have felt devastation at the thought of losing her. This fear of being without is not because I am co-dependent or overly “enmeshed” with my partner—this fear of being without is connected to my own fear of dying (an all too culturally constructed fear) and my fear of one day not having my inspiration and companion by my side to walk with, and talk with, and work with, and eat with, and sleep with, and strive for justice and peace with.

I wanted that love to seep from the surface of our skin, as we walked through the day at love won out, but all that we want does not always appear.

Sometimes the air is too thick with lies and disgust—hate and fear.

I do want to believe that the parents and friends and families attending this love won out conference were filled with good intent and love, but after hearing the mean-spirited and unfounded claims of the presenters and after hearing the “bravos” and applause from the crowd, I can only think that many of the people in attendance were either na├»ve and willing to be lead by wolves in sheep’s clothing--people who were taught to think through the minds of others--or people of no-good-will. The claims made by the speakers, who were organized by Dr. James Dobson’s focus on the family, were scantily clad and narrowly organized drivel.

The rhetoric of the right is so bathed in their perceived understanding of Jesus’ blood that their arguments flounder and drown before the ears of anyone that does not believe in the saving grace of Christ (or anyone who has a different understanding of the saving grace of Christ).

And it is here that I must interject my critique of evangelical Christianity. While I desire deeply to get along with all people and to participate in the growing of community that is founded on love and respect, I cannot embrace or remain silent about the aspects of Christianity that put forth the notion that their god is the only way—and that the redeeming blood of Christ will set one free, and if you choose not to believe this then you will surely perish. There are many “queer” Christians that hold these very tenants to be true and I cannot help but think they are participating in the very perpetuation of their own oppression.

I think it is essential that we get to the roots of the colonizing traits of the proselytizing characteristics of many forms/sects/denominations of Christianity. The very nature of colonization is steeped in the message and the act of conquering. To many anti-gay Christians, they are taking part in the grand battle of good and evil here on earth—they are working to conquer the enemy, the evil one. And that is the same message that has been propagated throughout the planet, since the dawn of Christendom. It is the same message that contributed to the annihilation of the Native American peoples in the “new world” and it is a form of interacting and relating that needs to be very carefully dismantled and critiqued. Gay Christians must be cautious when handling their faith.


As Janelle H___ spoke on the causes of lesbianism, I found myself angered and laughing at the absurdity of her claims. She proposed that lesbians have missing foundational pieces in their psychological make-up. She blamed the “condition” of lesbianism on absent mothers or mothers who were cold and distant from their baby girls. She so carelessly placed the blame on mothers that many women were weeping in the audience.

First the mothers were blamed and then they were charged with the mission to go out and try to bring a healing love to their lost and mislead daughters. I found these assertions to be padded with the saccharine sweet syrup of the cover over reality church. A church that is basically homogenous in appearance and attitude—a church that shrinks at the idea of diversity and bellows at the existence of difference. A church that aims to blend all beings into a straight edged box—white and dominated by men with women carrying on the production of off spring and the maintenance of the house. A church that cannot give any sort of multi-faceted definition for man or woman (except in the narrowest of terms), and is still so wed to the idea of creating automated creatures--sterile and one-dimensional humans that laugh and weep on command. People who are told how to think and act and respond—people who are never given the tools or opportunities to think for themselves—because they have been so put in their places. But the problem is that the forced energy and brainwashed mind set that the automans bring to the universe is filled with hate and destructive power.

Not that queer affirming people and people who are embracing of all faiths and paths are perfect beings that do no harm; there is always a destructive force behind the skulls of controlled minds.

The warning that I believe needs to be shouted out after attending this conference is one of preparation. We, those who believe in diverse and healthy communities, must be prepared to counter the very loud and dangerous message of the Christian right. I realized before attending this conference that there were deep-rooted ideologies permeating all facets of society, both secular and religious, when it came to queer people. But after attending this conference, I now realize that their message is more stifling and hate-filled than I ever imagined and that many, many, many people are seeking answers from their supposed expertise.

We must be prepared to offer up examples of love—not just words of love, but true and tried examples. We must be prepared to be visible in all dimensions of our lives and to share the realities of the love that seeps through our lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gay relationships.

I went into this conference thinking that I would share my feelings with many people that I encountered throughout the day, but when it came down to it I only had the courage and the strength to speak with one woman.

I had stepped outside to finally breathe. The florescent lights and new carpet smell had just about done me in—not to forget that I had just been bombarded with assaultive words that had left me bleeding. I had stepped outside needing air and space away from so much sameness and so much hate. [beware if you have children and you are just coming out—the “experts” at the conference recommended that grandparents may need to contact a lawyer to battle for custody of the children—if the straight, and very Christian grandparents think their lesbian daughter may be a “danger” to the children.]
I sat on a bench; I chose a sunny spot so that the heat of the sunshine would counter the brisk, chilly wind that pushed through the air.

After a few minutes of just sitting stunned and drained, a woman in a bright orange vest approached me and asked if it was all right for her to sit next to me. I nodded and she sat. My nerves felt shot, but I scoured up the gumption to ask how she was and if she was enjoying the day.

She told me that she was learning a lot. She had come for answers to some questions she had and she was finding answers. Her eyes were red-lined—tear stained. She was shaken to the bone.

I asked her what had brought her here, and she shared that her daughter—her youngest daughter of three girls—had recently come out to her. She did not understand how her daughter could be a lesbian. The orange-vested woman—let’s call her C—had gone to her Assembly of God minister for advice and he had told her about the conference; he had also told her to Love the sinner but hate the sin. She expressed that she had divorced her husband when her youngest daughter, the lesbian, was four years old. From that time on she had to work full time to support her family. Her husband had been an alcoholic and she needed more than anything to get her daughters away from him and into a safe space. She told me this point with a veracity of exclamation—she was trying to rationalize her decision to leave her husband and therefore, according to the focus on the family rhetoric abandon her youngest, and currently lesbian, daughter to day care and leave her with an absence of proper foundational love.

She had drawn the conclusion that her lesbian daughter may have very well turned gay because she had left to go into the workplace when her daughter was so young. She had left her daughter with a void, and C had been hearing all morning that young girls left with a void will later in life try to fill it with a mother figure, a lesbian lover. According to the “experts” that we had been subjected to, a lesbian relationship is based on an infant’s need to be held by a mother that they never had.

I approached her curiosity and confusion about the whole subject with a calmness that I did not know resided within me. I affirmed that her decision to leave a violent and abusive husband was good and that I was sure she had been the best mother possible. I told her that I detected a genuine love for her children—a deep and profound love. I also came out to her directly. I connected with her by sharing that I too came from a family of three daughters. I shared with her that I believed it was entirely possible for two women to love one another purely and wholly, and I suggested that she might be experiencing so much confusion, because she just did not know any gay people before her daughter came out to her.

It felt so good to express my love for my partner to this searching stranger. It was honest and right to tell her that there are other ways of loving than the straight-boxed definition of love and relationship.

She told me over and over again that she loved her daughter, that she actually felt the closest to her, and that she did not want to lose her relationship with her. I suggested that she might want to see her daughter’s love for another woman as something beautiful and that this may lead to her relationship with her daughter remaining solid and intact. I could only see my own love as such… Beautiful and right.


Emilie said...

i'm so glad you're writing about this topic. my parents are die-hard Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Love Won Out fans and I've had to go through so many "counselors" affiliated with it. I'm still trying to get my parents to see what my love for another woman is anything BUT dirty. It's a huge struggle, still, in 2010. Ugh.

tiff said...

I'll echo Emilie and say that I, too, am so glad you are writing about this. I have been with my partner, K, for almost 9 years, and my mother begged me in 2003 to attend the conference with me (she is also all about Dobson). I went to appease her, and wasn't really expecting to be hit with SO much. I found myself so sad that women were attending and believing their crap.

I have a lot less time to read blogs these days, but read every word of your post and was blown away by your words. Good for you for going and sitting through it all AND talking to that one woman - my guess is that your conversation had a huge impact on her.


Shianne said...

I've been following your blog for a month or so now...I have wanted to comment so many times, but haven't found the right words. Hopefully it works this time :-)
I am married to a wonderful man (we are expecting our first in May), and I am what many would call a "Christian" (although I often hesitate to use that term because of the things you discussed in this particular blog, among other things). I just wanted to let you know how very much I enjoy your posts. They are beautiful. You and your love are beautiful. The love that you have is beautiful. It's so sad to me (whether religious or secular), the hate and condemnation people have for each other. From a religious perspective, the whole reason Jesus came was out of love for ALL His people, and yet humans can't even show that!!
People who claim to "know Jesus" are doing the opposite!! Having been raised conservatively, in a very loving family, I have come into contact (minimal, thanks to my parents) with FOF, and many other groups of the like. Even as a child I knew that it was wrong - the way others made each other feel guilty and condemned...
Anyways, I'm sure I could go on and on, but the point of this "little" comment was to let you know how much I appreciate, not only the love you showed to the woman at the conference, but the love you clearly show throughout your blog. Thank you!!