Tag Archives: family

How to Love Radically in the Era of Trump

6 Feb

radical-loveI have been struggling, along with 2/3 of the nation, since November. I have been fearful, hurt, and worried for ALL targeted communities. For those who insultingly made this about “Hillary lost, get over it,” you missed the point, quite sadly. This was about resisting a fascist regime, which we are now under, as evidenced by the over 20 Executive Orders delivered by Trump — as evidenced by the myriad lies spread by Trump and his team (please don’t make up attacks, Kellyanne).  This was about supporting a billionaire bully who makes fun of people with disabilities  and says it is acceptable to grab women by their genitals.

And so I struggle. I struggle with how to be loving to Trump supporters, some of whom are family members — family members who have decidedly voted against me, my family, my friends, and the earth. Yet I must maintain that we have to stay in community; we have to operate from our hearts first; we have to make space for those who are hurting us. I STRUGGLE!

I struggle every day to make this space for people who are deliberately oppressing so many. It is hard to love someone when they are punching you or shooting at you or sustaining systems of oppression. Moreover, I don’t want to become like those who are oppressing us! I think our individual and collective ability to RESIST with every fiber of our being and simultaneously love and make space for Trump supporters is Radical Love. I would love to take credit for this, but at least two of my friends for over 30 years, Jen, and DeShawn helped me here.

I feel obligated to share some survival tips and invite you to share how you are surviving a world gone mad.

  1. Take a break from news and social media.
  2. If you are able to, binge watch some tv that brings you joy. Here, I would strongly recommend the Netflix remake of One Day At A Time. My friend Gita recommended this to me, and Robert and I are loving it! It has a Latina cast and addresses social issues and is FUN! Rita Moreno is in it along with Justina Machado, and I think I am in love with Isabella Gómez. 
  3. With intentionality, seek out friends, family, and family of choice who feed your soul.

Finally, join me in a commitment to Radical Love! I commit to being in and operating from a place of love, while I know there are days I will fail at this. When I fail at this, I will not shame myself. I will continue to work towards building community, solidarity, and find ways to both resist this current fascist regime and love those who are engaged in supporting a world of fear, hate, and oppression. If this sounds or feels contradictory to you, all I can say is: I’m able to hold a lot of tension around being messy — this work we do towards social justice/transformative justice is MESSY! We don’t do this work in isolation and we will not complete it, but we must be engaged!

I invite you to share how you are navigating currently. What is working and what is not working?

Standing in love and solidarity,

Michael

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Bigot of the Week, September 27: Guido Barilla

27 Sep
The Homophobic Pasta

The Homophobic Pasta

Thank you again to fierce LGBT ally and my friend, Jennifer Carey for inspiring me to write this article.  I must confess, I don’t  particularly enjoy writing the Bigot of the Week articles, for they sit heavy on my heart. Sadly, I feel I must write them to expose where and when people are being oppressed.  This week, Guido Barilla, the CEO of Barilla pasta engaged in oppressing the LGBT community.

In an interview Barilla did explaining why he would never use gay people in his commercials, Barilla said:

I would never do a commercial with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don’t agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role…if the gays do not agree, they can always eat pasta from another manufacturer.

Wow! Where does one start to unpack this?  Shall we start with the definition of a family? Clearly, Barilla is getting his definition from Dan Quayle from 1992.  Barillia’s comments are full of misogyny, hypocrisy, homophobia, classism, and just plain old ignorance. For those who are under the assumption that the LGBT community is now safe and can rest easy, please know these comments from people in power are so hurtful and harmful to all of us — all members of the human family.  Barilla and other homophobes send the message that human beings can easily be discarded if they do not fit into the boxes prescribed by the dominant culture — a white, male, heterosexual, Christian paradigm.

Sadly, McDonald’s is implicated in this homophobic attack. My hope is that McDonald’s will discontinue its partnership with Barilla pasta.  I also hope that the LGBT community and all of our allies will stand in solidarity and boycott Barilla pasta. When did hate become a family value?

Another call to action: If you already have Barilla products in your home, you can either return them to your grocer and explain why you are returning the product, or donate it to your local food bank.

Black History Month 2013: Bonnie Sanders

19 Feb

Michael & Bonnie June 2008This particular tribute is especially difficult for me to write and I only hope I can do Bonnie justice.  Bonnie and I were friends for nearly a quarter of a century.  She would have been 61 years old today, but sadly we lost her all too soon.  Bonnie was born and raised in Akron, Ohio.  She lived the last part of her life in Atlanta, Georgia. Just by the way Bonnie lived her life, she was an exemplar of social justice.

Although she could present a gruff exterior — and we all know she did not suffer fools lightly — she had a heart that embraced all marginalized voices. From the nine turtles she saved and adopted, the many dogs and cats she rescued, to standing in solidarity with the LGBT community and with the aging community, her dedication to civil rights and women’s rights was unparalleled.  Bonnie walked in every AIDS Walk Atlanta since the very beginning. Bonnie’s voice will be sorely missed.

Bonnie was the boss of all of us and inspired everyone to be their best person, although I have to admit she did have a devilish way of making me act out.  Although she was chronologically older than I, she referred to me as her Granny.  Probably because I would just hold her hand, fix meals for her, and fuss at her if she did not go in for her mammogram.  To be honest, she also called me Granny because I can’t stay up past 9:00.

Our traditional New Year’s Eve extravaganza would usually start at 4 and Bonnie, Joanie,  and I would be asleep by 8:00.  Our friends who knew us well knew you had to leave by 8:00 because we would be asleep.  I did wake up at midnight and would wake up Bonnie and Joanie for a quick toast to the New Year and then back to sleep.

I was in my early 20s when I met Bonnie and was immediately in love with her — with her contagious laugh, her irreverent sense of humor.  Over the years we built a life together and have a shared history.  Bonnie knew I was gay before I did, as she was wont to remind me of often.  Bonnie is one of the reasons why I married my wonderful husband, for Robert had to get her approval.

The pain of losing someone so close is at times unbearable; there are times throughout the day that I feel as if I’m choking, or I break into tears.  Other times something funny will happen and my immediate reaction is to want to call Bonnie.  Right now it feels as though a huge part of myself has been ripped out and I cannot retrieve it.  I desperately try to just be grateful Bonnie was a part of my life for so long.  I know she lives forever in our collective laughter and acting out.

A heart is not judged by how much it loves, but by how much it is loved by others; it is obvious how Bonnie’s heart embraced the world and I am all the better for just having been connected to her.  Her light and wonder were contagious and should be shared!

For those that knew Bonnie, please, I invite you to share a funny story that shines as an example of how witty and irreverent she was.

I love you, Bonnie.

Love,

Granny

Hero of the Week Award: October 19, Timothy Kurek

19 Oct

Hero of the Week

Just over two years ago, Timothy Kurek was what he describes as a “homophobic Christian.” He believed that the Bible prohibited homosexual behavior and made no effort to reconcile that with true Christian love and charity. Then a close friend came out to him and told him the story of her estrangement from her entire family. That made him think again.

Inspired to take a journey of true empathy, Kurek decided to spend a year masquerading as a gay man. He came out to friends and family and tried to integrate himself into the gay community in Nashville. The experience was more difficult and enlightening than he expected.

He has just published a book about his experiences, The Cross In the Closet, and is touring the country describing the work he did not just to wear a mask, but to open hearts and minds. Although his “coming out” was difficult for his family, he describes them now as active supporters of the LGBT community, a major change from their perspectives before his adventure. Those attitudes have stayed positive even after he revealed the nature of his project.

In less capable hands, the whole thing could come off like a media stunt. Kurek, however, is very genuine. He felt a true calling to understand his brothers and sisters and describes his difficulties as a “gay man” in terms of true struggle and oppression. Significantly, he realizes that his experiences, while enlightening, were still relatively safe.

I will be the first one to say that my experience is severely limited. There is no way I could possibly understand what it’s like to be actually gay. And the book itself is not at all about what it is like to be gay, but only about how the label of gay impacted my external life and how those things kind of altered my faith and challenged my beliefs.

What a wonderful sentiment and expression of true charity and love.

One of the Voices of Social Justice: Matthew Johnson

19 Jul

Allies

As the conversation around civil rights and marriage equality has become a very hot button topic during this Presidential election year, my friend Matthew asked if would I interview him for my blog.  Matthew and his wife are not just our neighbors, they have become our friends and family here in Portland.  One can catch us at their house with their kids or all of them at our house on our front porch.  I have to thank Matthew for speaking out and using his heterosexual privilege to help marginalized populations. This is the second interview in what I hope will be a year long series.

Where and how did you grow up?

I grew up in a little white yuppy bubble in Ohio—the conservative town of Chagrin Falls, a suburb of Cleveland. I found out in high school that our county had been gerrymandered around a black community and 95% of the high school graduates went on to college.  The gerrymandering made it impossible for black kids to attend my high school and none of us realized how privileged we were.  Coming out of high school was a shock to me because I met a huge group of people that were not like me: gay and lesbian, black people, people that were not from the same socioeconomic status.  Where I grew up, if you were gay, no one really dealt with the issue. One could never bring up the issue—it was a taboo issue, we would just say ‘he is just light in the loafers.’  It is not a bad place to grow up, but it is very sheltered and very privileged.

Matthew met his wife in Seattle and upon learning they were pregnant they decided to move to Portland to buy a house and raise their family; they currently have four children:

I was pleasantly surprised to found out how progressive Portland is and I was happy to find out that Multnomah County is the most secular county in the country. I did grow up going to church—a Christian church, but not evangelical—I still chafed under it. I chafed under it because my nature is to question and the Christian church is not set up for that—it is not set up for debate. [Currently, Matthew identifies as atheist.] This does not mean I hate Christians. I appreciate the comfort it gives them, I just don’t subscribe to it.

Do you consider you and your wife political?

We are political in that we vote and we vote at every opportunity. We don’t campaign or canvass but we don’t hold our political views to ourselves. My wife identifies as a Democrat and I identify as an Independent.  We both believe in civil rights and that no one should be able to deny others’ civil rights.

Why did you feel compelled to visit with me about Marriage Equality? 

I believe strongly in it.  I want to have some sort of an outlet as a person of privilege who does not need to address the issue, but I feel compelled to.  If I were a gay man and wanted to get married I would need to go out and approach legislators.  As a straight man I need to help and work to make a difference.  [Matthew is fully aware of the power of straight allies and the use of our collective voices.] The whole issues is insidious—the issue of marriage equality is not a threat to my heterosexual marriage, nor is it a threat to any heterosexual marriage.  I’m not putting anyone on a pedestal: I’m just saying that as a group (LGBTQ) should have the same rights that everyone else has—it is not a privilege it is a right!  For full disclosure, I have a lesbian sister.  She came out a decade ago and I was the last person she told.  When I asked her why I was the last person, she said “because I didn’t think it would be an issue with you.”  My parents were very accepting.

I know a bunch of heterosexual couples that do not want children, so does that mean their marriage is invalid? I have a real problem with the inequitable distribution of power—you can’t institute who someone falls in love with anymore than you can institute what color people are supposed to love.

Call to action for LGBTQ allies: 

Vote first of all—that is a big one.  Don’t be afraid of the issue and if it comes up be willing to speak your mind. People need to know that does not just concern the LGBTQ community—other people do care.  Don’t let people voice homophobic comments—gay jokes are not cool.  My kids will never make gay jokes!  Just as my wife was taught never to play the game “Smear the Queer.”  Her dad taught his children not to be homophobic.

Matthew and Erin, thank you for teaching your children not to be homophobic and for being wonderful friends and allies.

Family Portrait Day

15 Aug

Gothic Love Makes a Family

Love is Love

I place these two pictures side by side.  I’m not sure there is anything I can add here, for these pictures speak volumes.

Wednesday Word of the Week, May 25

25 May

A Home is Not a House

This week’s word is: HOME.

The place where you live — Macmillan Dictionary Online

I have been thinking about the concept of home a great deal lately. In just over two weeks, I will be moving from one home to another. I realize that in 21st Century America people move all the time, but this is a significant change for me.

I have lived my entire life in Vermont. Geographically, moving to Braintree, MA (part of Boston’s metropolitan area) isn’t such a big stretch. In almost every other way, it is a huge departure for me. Not only have I lived all my life in one state, I have lived 22 of my nearly 29 years in one town. For the past several months, I have even lived in the house where I grew up. Again, these facts may not be unusual, but they contribute to my sense of the magnitude of my coming change.

I am excited to be moving on with my life, even with many unknowns ahead of me. As I have started packing, I realized that the reason this move is less daunting than it might have been has to do with an old Word of the Week: FAMILY. I know that I have the support of Mom and Granddad, even though they’ll remain here. Distance doesn’t matter. This place will always be home, too. More than this, I am not moving on in a vacuum. I will be sharing a home with my dearest friends, Drew and John. That makes a new place home even before I get there.

I am a very lucky man. I haven’t really figured out my life (welcome to 28 in 2011!), but I have the support I need to feel at home and loved. I have the skill and education to make the most of the opportunities that exist, even in this horrible economy. I have been part of a strong community here, and, knowing how important community is to me, will make building a new one a top priority in my new home.

As I’ve been contemplating this change (and my great good fortune), I have come to realize that the definition of home I list above is tepid at best. The word has so much deeper meaning. Even people who have a “place where they live” may not feel at home. Perhaps their relationship is not valued, or is misunderstood, or they are treated as second-class by the people who surround them. This is the saddest thing I can imagine: not being able to feel at home at home.

That realization led me to understand another reason that I feel less overwhelmed by this move: I also have a virtual home. The Solipsistic Me is a wonderful community that has let me spread my wings and hone my voice. Michael has been my champion, teacher, and muse. I have always cared about the wider world but — until recently — had limited ways to touch it. Through this vehicle I feel that there is a bit of home awaiting me wherever I go. Thank you, regular readers and commenters for making that true. I hope your weekly visits to my e-maunderings have given you a bit of a home, too.

So what is home? They say (forgive the cliché) that it is where the heart is. That is very true, but misleading, just like the literal translation about residence. Home is knowing that you are wanted and loved, whether the people who feel that way are near or far. Home is the sense that, wherever you live, you have belonging somewhere. I am very luck to have Home, in many places. We should never rest until everyone can feel this way.

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