Afraid of the Dark

Hold on to this moment
this darkness, this grief
this new uncharted place
this reflection where there is no light.

Is this the loss of a parent?
the death of a child,
a suicide,
a life with AIDS?
Is it cancer?
No, and it could never compare.
Those moments are the anchors reminding us
that to do more than just survive
we must thrive.
This is new darkness for some…
and all too familiar shadow for many.
But for everyone in this moment
it is a windowless room,
stifling, close.

There is no way out.
Do not pin your hopes to a symbol.
If you have to broadcast to the world
“I am safe space”,
you are not.
Live the symbol.

There is no way out.
Do not think you can outsmart the system.
If you are working with the rules
to win “the game”,
you are the system.
Learn a new way to play.

There is no way out.
Do not ask which action you can take.
If you are questioning what to do
and looking for direction,
you are doing nothing.
and really “we must do everything…”

Hold on to this moment
this darkness, this grief.
It is a new uncharted place,
it is a reflection where there is no light.
You must hold on
because the goal is not to be outside
but instead to finally face your fears inside.
Learn how to love the beauty, the richness, the power
of what is nurtured in this dark.

-ALD

This poem is inspired by the relentlessly prophetic words and work of Rev. Elena Rose and the army of Trans* Activists teaching us all what it means to live truth.

Choices, Choices, Choices…

 

Being born with dark brown skin is not a choice.
Being subject to violence based on the history of dark brown skin is, tragically, not a choice.

Fighting back against a systemic perversion of life based on dark brown skin is a choice.

Being born with light pink skin is not a choice.
Being associated with an embarrassing legacy of oppression created to protect light pink skin is not a choice.

Living each day to actively relieve that oppression connected to light pink skin is a choice.

Being born with a vagina is not a choice.
Being targeted as an object by ignorant people because of that vagina is, horrifically, not a choice.

Destroying restrictive patriarchy and building strong female narratives is a choice.

Being born with a penis is not a choice.
Being perceived to have immense, unwarranted, unjustified privilege because of that penis is not a choice.

Actively disempowering and stepping away from all vestiges of that privilege is a choice.

Being born with one or more sets of sexual anatomy is not a choice.
Being of a different inner life than that anatomy is not a choice.

Living into a healthy expression of the balance between the two is a lifesaving choice…
and is therefore no choice at all.

We do not choose the biology that we are born with.
Nor do we choose the history that goes with that biology.
Whether it is about sex or skin color…
We are all the product of the combination of both…biology and history…and so much more.

And our psyche is one place where the two meet
And we don’t get to choose that.

The spark of life…our spirit…is another
And that spark spirit is what impels us to want peace in our lives
…and we didn’t choose that either.

Being whole will never be just about an appearance,
Living a masquerade of someone else’s history…pain…journey…
Hiding behind makeup or hairstyles is, in the truest sense, a travesty;
Being whole is not.

Being whole begins within…
And being whole is not a choice when the other options are oblivion or death.

What we choose, and what is often truly brave,
Is how we share our wholeness with the world.

Being whole is the only choice.

The Next White Flight?

I was speaking with a colleague from Detroit this week, lamenting our position as activist, black, gay men who are also clergy and we realized that we are often in situations where we are asked to choose our allegiance: are we working on/with black issues or LGBT issues? I also recently attended a meeting of local black LGBT leaders where the same question arose: black or LGBT? The way that communities of color and LGBT groups are so disjointed sometimes, leaves someone like me at odds. Too frequently, in black and brown spaces, we are asked to leave our LGBT selves outside, because it is felt that sexuality issues dilute the power of the race conversation, or that LGBT is a “white” issue. Likewise, in predominantly white LGBT spaces, people of color are frequently ghettoized (that is, called upon to speak for our entire race) or entirely left out of the conversation because of access (funding, location, cultural setting, etc.) Case in point, I also attended a presentation by one of our local LGBT politicians (a dynamic young man of color) yet I was the only African American in the audience, although there were a couple of Asian and Latino folks. Questions from the audience were all targeted at youth, marriage equality and local LGBT history; the only question on race was one that furthered the perception of local black communities harboring negative feelings for LGBT issues.

“What happens when the LGBT fight becomes predominantly black and brown?”

There is a disturbing threat on the horizon. As a gay man who cannot ignore the issues of race in the United States, I watch the events of Baltimore over the last few weeks as well as New York, Oakland, Chicago, Ferguson and Sanford over the last few years and I am worried about the very real potential for “LGBT White Flight.”

What happens when the LGBT fight becomes predominantly black and brown? When the Supreme Court rules to make Marriage Equality the law of the land, will the funding from white LGBT donors dry up? Will the white LGBT allies fail to show up at the marches or more importantly at the polls?  Will we see an uptick in the number of LGBT folks who align with conservative fiscal policies that promote their personal wealth over the overal health and welfare of those who are marginalized? Right now, significant LGBT wealth is pouring into the fight for Marriage Equality. Even a cursory glance at major donors and supporters of this effort, shows how LGBT donors and organizations sometimes have significantly less connection to communities of color, and if they do, it is very narrowly focused. Yet organizations who are funding and supporting racial justice work, are much more likely to be public and financial allies of LGBT efforts.  If the commitment is only marginal now, what will the motivation be to make it more equitable in the future?

The face of the Marriage Equality fight is overwhelmingly white. Although there are a handful of plaintiffs who are people of color, and a significant number of children of these families are people of color, the positioning of the benefits to be gained from marriage status (tax benefits, partner, employment benefits, community and social standing) are portrayed on the surface as benefits that are associated with white affluence in our country. Yet, when this one battle is won, the LGBT fight for opportunity will be far from over for people of color. In a recent study from Movement Advancement Project and Center for American Progress ( PAYING AN UNFAIR PRICE: The Financial Penalty for LGBT People of Color in America) the numbers are clear that poverty and lack of opportunity and lack of security plague LGBT people of color more than their white or non-LGBT counterparts:

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A 2014 report from the Black Youth Project ( Moving Beyond Marriage: What Young People of Color Think about the LGBT Agenda) has some surprising numbers as well showing how a majority of young people of color think that the LGBT Agenda isn’t aligned with their priorities:

“This report demonstrates that while young people grant strong support to same-sex marriage, young people—especially young people of color—also believe that several other policies should have greater priority in the fight for LGBT equality. For instance, more than 80 percent of Black, white, and Latino youth support policies to guarantee employment rights, while 65 to 70 percent of young people support same-sex marriage….

Our findings also indicate that young people of color are skeptical about whether mainstream LGBT organizations advocate policies that are important for LGBT individuals in communities of color. Young people of color are perhaps uniquely situated to identify what policies are most likely to have the greatest impact on their communities.”

We cannot choose one identity or the other.  We all live at crossroads of identity.  The question is, will the same happy gay and lesbian couples who embrace and celebrate on the steps of the Supreme Court in victory for their ability to marry and share benefits, then be willing to turn around and travel the 29 miles up Interstate 295 to march in the streets of Baltimore to support their black trans* siblings who are targeted and murdered by police (Mya Hall)? Will the major donors to Equality California also fund safe spaces for Cambodian LGBT youth in Long Beach?

We cannot let the LGBT movement turn into a cultural Detroit, Oakland or Cleveland…abandoned by the people who can now afford to disappear into the suburban mainstream.

Conversations About Masculinity – 2

What do we want to be?

MacArthurIf people don’t think that race and gender justice are deeply connected, then they are living in a delusional world.  When I first got wind of the horrific burning of an 18 year old gender bending youth, Sasha Fleishman by a 16 year old (unnamed because he is a minor) on a city bus in Oakland, I was stunned and immediately went to the place that most of us go for our news these days…the internet.  But in doing a search for “Oakland youth burned on bus” I came up with, among other things, a site that is called ‘niggermania’ (I will not link to it here because I’d rather not drive traffic to it and who knows what kind of crazies are behind it.)  On this site, there were a lot of people who were very intent on making it clear that because the victim was white and because the perpetrator was black that this would somehow lead to the media not making as much of it as if the race roles were reversed.  There were a lot of mentions of Trayvon Martin and a lot of very sad and bigoted language all around.  I still marvel that my search brought this site up.  But rather than just being pissed off by the existence of this site, I had a good long think about it and realized that this perspective actually didn’t surprise me in any way; in fact it seemed eerily familiar.  Not because, all white Americans are bigots…that is far from the case.  Instead I realized that this was a sampling of the worst elements of the dominant culture invective played out in its most exaggerated and acid tone and as an American, I am accustomed to always hearing about race.  America is obsessed with race.  Regardless of the conversation, somehow, there is always a racial bent on it.  Ask any non-American and they will tell you so.

But that still doesn’t answer the fact that the bigots have been correct in how this story has not had the juggernaut press of other stories of late where black people have been the innocent victims of crimes of racial profiling.  As I see it, there is one reason and one reason only for this lack of coverage: gender.  The sad subtext of the media being more tacet on this story than on the others has a lot to do with a very subtle approval of the suppression and ‘turning a blind eye’ to issues of gender non-conformity.  It is a subtle affirmation, whether deliberate or not, of the act of the 16 year old saying in effect that they agree on a certain level that a boy who does not present socially as a boy is a bad thing.  More specifically, this silence sends the clear signal that when someone who is outside of the gender norm is victimized, it is somehow not as important as when someone who is racially profiled is victimized.  We see this time and again with the non reporting of transgender crimes either to the police or to the media.  Now admittedly, this is part apples and oranges.  The profiling cases we are currently seeing in national media all involve murder and this case is assault.  However, this current situation also involves a minor choosing to permanently disfigure someone and the resulting punishment treats the minor as an adult.  With all of the questions surrounding juvenile justice and the mass incarceration of people of color, there is a significant conversation that could be had here about the fate of this young man thanks to his own twisted decisions.  All of these stories have ghastly and tragic elements and each deserves to be heard by the public.  But we cannot dismiss the Oakland burning as some kind of child’s play gone wrong…’boys will be boys.’ This was a deliberate and gruesome act based on (by admission of the 16 year old) a hate bias against someone’s gender expression.  So where are the marches?  Where are the protests?

Nowhere, because as a culture, we don’t care.

I ask the question, “who do we want to be” in the conversation on manhood, because we have choices.  We have the choice to decide if we are going to be violent and abusive; we have the choice to decide if we are going to put up barriers; we have the choice to decide if we are going to look at someone and call them disgusting, or worthless, or less than us in someway.  We have choices.  But we don’t have a choice in how we express our gender.  This is a completely individual and for some a God given gift.  It is part of the fabric that makes each of us an individual.  Likewise, we also have no choice as to our race.  It is not something we can fix and fiddle after the fact, because, like our gender and gender expression, it came along before us and is defined by who we are.  In no circumstance, can I think of a situation where race trumps gender. Nor can I see a place where gender expression is more important than race.  We must invest in the search for a new language (literally and figuratively) to talk about these elements of our humanness  as part of our basic makeup and it is the struggle toward that language that makes this journey so difficult.  What do we want to be?  We want to be free and safe in both our gender and racial expression.  We want to be whole.

Because I am black, I am not a monster…but I can choose to do monstrous things.  Because I am gender queer, I am not a pervert…but I can choose to do perverted things.  You see, we are who we are, but we choose what we do with it.  The young man who burned Sasha Fleishman is not a monster because he is black (although ‘niggermania’ would have you think so) but he chose to do something monstrous.  Just as Sasha Fleishman is not a pervert for being a man in a skirt, although our media and culture would have us think so through their tacet response.  We have choices to make about our actions and we should be choosing actions that are grounded in love.  We cannot make choices about who we are and we shouldn’t confuse bigotries and biases for identities.  We can choose to be full of hatred, but you must remember that ultimately we are all made from love.

8.5% – An Open Letter to Linda Harvey

jesus-facepalmThank you Linda Harvey of the conservative Christian organization Mission America for giving me the fire to write this.  You and I do not live in the same world…and I’m glad.

Dear Linda Harvey,

Yes, indeed, I have decided to come out to myself as straight. I find women sexually desirable and beautiful and powerful. I totally and completely want women in my life as partners and companions. I think that the union between a man and a woman is Divinely inspired and should be upheld as a God given right.  But quite miraculously, I am a big enough human in my heart and an enlightened enough person to realize that just because I have strong feelings for women, it doesn’t negate the fact that my feelings for men are stronger.  I also think that the union between two men or two women, regardless of their gender identity is a God given right as creatures with a conscious and free will (also given to us by God.)  This is what separates us from animals (because I know you want to go there and compare my sexuality to bestiality…which is a manifestation of your sick mind and not mine.) This is also why we call it “sexual PREFERENCE” and not “sexual DICTATE.” God gave us two things in this question: sexual expression and free will.  Even if God did give us the Bible, and I won’t challenge those people who live by The Word, God also gave the Bible hundreds of authors and interpretations; clearly even God is not not willing to make the wild spectrum of our feelings and emotions simply black and white.  Gay and straight aren’t a binary.  The only ones who decided that human sexuality was built on strict opposites were physicians in the 19th century who were driven by colonial politics and society and a healthy dose of fear.  Linda, if you want to live in a world that is black and white; a world where you are willing to ignore that yellow and red and pink and purple exist…that is your choice.  But I resent anyone who would tell me that the sky is blue and corn is yellow just as much as I would resent anyone telling me that male/ female, gay/ straight etc.  are strict and unmalleable  opposites. So yes, indeed Linda Harvey, I am fully willing to come out to myself as straight…but only about 8.5% straight; the other 91.5% is 100% gay male queer.

Adam Dyer

To my Readers: What’s you’re percentage?  There is no scientific test for this.  This is a question for your heart and only you can tell for sure.  You might not ever want to act on it and it doesn’t define who you are but if you ever looked at someone of the same sex and found them attractive, I’d say give yourself 2% and celebrate…because you’re probably 100% normal…whatever that is.

Link

Maybe If

(Click on the link above.)

This was so real and powerful I had to re-blog it.  I am heartbroken by how these stories either go un published or become punchlines.  I’m also disturbed by how we spend a lot of time looking at transgender people with pity and an assumed sense of tragic.  This week’s news around Chelsea Manning and the variety of comments and the twisted and insensitive coverage by even the LGBTQ press is testament to how much we don’t know and don’t even seem to WANT to know about gender and gender fluidity.  But more than that, the story in Maybe If is one I’ve heard repeatedly in my small circle of friends and colleagues only because that circle includes transwomen of color.  We can talk about “welcoming congregations” and “equality” but it means nothing unless you are willing to actually be in relationship with the people who are marginalized.  Please God let this country and this world grow up.

A Binder full of Ubuntu

“We need to learn that unleashing the power of women has the potential to transform our world in extraordinary and many as yet unimagined ways” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

I did not watch last night’s debate.  Nor did I watch last weeks…or the one before that.  Several pundits in criticizing the Romney-bot, summed up this phase of thecampaign very well in stating that this is all about salesmanship.  We are being force fed a choice between two parties that both have fairly icky records, not just in recent history, but throughout the history of their existence.  I will not watch the next debate.  I have chosen my candidate based on a combination of personal feeling, aspirations for our society, political and social record and what I see as a viable and sustainable future for the United States on a global stage.  This blog is not about endorsing “my” candidate (although I’m sure it will be pretty obvious who that is.) Rather, this entry is about the total audacity of placing not just women but anyone in a binder.

If I were asked to come up with 10 friends who were attorneys, at least half of them would be women.  If I were asked to come up with 10 friends who were artists, half of them would be white.  If I were asked to come up with 10 friends who were in the church, half of them would be latino, and so on.  I wouldn’t have to try to fill these demographic quotas, it is simply the color, shape and size of my world; what/who they are is secondary to why they are in my life.  When I hear that a Governor-elect had to “search” for qualified candidates to fill his cabinet so that it didn’t just look like a white male house of mirrors, it says more about how truly whitewashed his world is.  Not to mention the god complex of idly leafing through a binder that says “women” or “blacks” or “Jews” to carefully place these poor underlings in key spots because otherwise they wouldn’t be there.

Yuk.

This morning, I’ve been reading and listening to the words of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.  My word for the day is Ubuntu.  Not the computer operating system (thank you Dad) but the southern African philosophy:

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed. – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

This is the cornerstone of everything I believe and everything I believe our world actually aspires to be.  In one of his addresses, Archbishop Tutu mentions how Western capitalism has often highlighted the antithesis of this concept, stressing individual wealth, success and position.  It is therefore no wonder that our hearts are empty and that our communities fail…we are working against nature in the most basic sense.  I’m not talking about the dictates of any one scripture or theology, for these will never all agree.  Although they are all the word of God (if we believe as such), we must first understand ourselves as part of a great interdependent existence before we can get to that God, by whatever name we call God.

We have a tremendous opportunity in our world.  We have come to an age of re-enlightenment where science has taken us so far that we are now coming full circle.  We are not satisfied by reducing and reducing life from tissue, to cell, to molecule, to atom, proton, electron, quark…no, not satisfied.  Even the greatest scientific minds of our time get to a point where they say “we don’t know” and more and more of us are okay with that.  Instinctively, we know as human beings that there is a level on which we function that cannot and will not be explained by a formula.  It is the “knowing that he or she belongs to a greater whole” that cannot be quantified.  Some call this spiritual connection, some call it Ubuntu and some even dare to call it love.

Personally, I am thrilled to live in a world where all women…cisgendered, trans, lesbian, queer, etc. do not live in files.  Where I know that every day and every moment of my life is intertwined with theirs and affirmed by theirs and where we aspire to hold each other up and celebrate our greater whole as one humankind.  Let us strive to live today and every day with our own personal and cultural Ubuntu. Whole and connected human capital is the only really valuable commodity we have.