This Monday is National Coming Out Day, and amid tragedy after tragedy, more Americans are opening their eyes to the crisis of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-identified young people committing suicide. But this epidemic is not new.
Even I could have been a statistic.
Taunts, abuse, and public shaming marked my early teenage years. I skipped classes to avoid my tormentors. I starved myself for the entire school day rather than step foot in the minefield that was the cafeteria. Teachers looked the other way, and I was too ashamed to ask for help.
The alienation and humiliation I experienced at the hands of bullies who pegged me as queer followed me for years after it ended, leaving me in a dark and suffocating closet. By age 19, I was driving to the top of an embankment in my neighborhood, begging for the strength to press down on the gas pedal and careen towards my death. Thankfully, I found a deeper inclination; I found my way out of the closet, and towards real life.
For Raymond Chase, Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Billy Lucas, Justin Aaberg, and so many others, the pain was just too much.
May they rest in peace and love.
We who stand on the side of love have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to declare this National Coming Out Day a turning point for our LGBT movement. This is our chance to harness our love, and make unabashed demands for real accountability.
Let us confront head-on the question of what really leads young queer people to take their lives.
Please join me in speaking out against the emotional and spiritual violence inflicted upon LGBT people through bullying, discrimination, and anti-gay religious rhetoric.
While schoolyard bullies should be held accountable for their actions, we need to look at the root, not the bloom of the problem. The root lies in all those who preach that queerness is a sin, whether from a bully pulpit or a pulpit looking out onto rows of pews. Far too many anti-gay pundits, anti-gay clergy, and anti-gay politicians are not only empowering listeners to act against perceived sin, but also incentivizing intolerance.
We cannot stand on the side of love if we relegate ourselves to the sidelines, afraid to “insult” people of faith who are enablers of the abuse that far too many LGBT people endure. Being gay is not a sin. And religious leaders who cling to this belief must be challenged to agree that publicly breaking down the spirit of vulnerable young people — setting the table for their despair, isolation, and demise — is a perversion of God’s love.
If we do this with deliberateness and clarity in our words, with a focus on the strength of our community, and guided by the principles of acceptance, inherent dignity and worth, and fundamental love, we need not be paralyzed by concern that we will alienate those with whom we share other, common values. There is a time to listen in love to our brothers and sisters who have a different opinion, and a time for us to say “enough” to the shame that they cast. That time is now more than ever.
Take this chance today to speak for those who cannot come out. Speak for those who are young, and vulnerable, and feel alone.
On this forthcoming National Coming Out Day, we must all come out unequivocally against religiously-grounded bigotry, even if it means turning over tables in the temple. Let us articulate our understanding of a world where the mutual love and support of two adults – regardless of their gender – is not only acceptable, it is holy.
Standing on the Side of Love
“I was moved to bring these roses as a visible symbol of the beauty and tragedy of these young lives lost,” said Reverend Mykel Johnson. “Our theme Sunday…”The Power of Love.”More >
by Orelia Busch
The One Nation Working Together March this past Saturday, October 2nd, mobilized progressives from all over the country. Nearly 200,000 people representing more than 400 different sponsoring groups rallied from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. Participants gathered from every state and the District of Columbia to demand equality, jobs, justice and education from our leaders in Washington. We also pledged to get out the vote for the upcoming November elections.
More than 100 Unitarian Universalists and friends gathered under the Standing on the Side of Love banner, many whom had traveled from as far away as Seattle, Washington, Florida, Maine and New Jersey.
The resounding message of the March was one of unity, equality, and love. Groups that had never before worked together, such as the National Baptist Convention and the Human Rights Campaign, joined the same effort, and showed that the demand for justice and equality is stronger when it is made with many voices. Advocates of immigrant rights stood alongside faith leaders and LGBT equality activists to ask our government for policies that treat everyone equally in education and employment. Elders stood alongside young progressive organizers to stress the interdependence of all people and call for economic and environmental justice.
I was most moved when a speaker acknowledged that we stood on holy ground – in the same area where Americans first heard President Lincoln’s affirmation of the humanity of every resident of this nation. The rally reaffirmed for me that the sacred nature of social justice work arises in the connections among and between people with very different identities and histories. When we stand on the side of love, we stand for the rights and dignity of our neighbors. Our movement becomes stronger when we stand together – when we stand not just for ourselves, but for each other.
As I was leaving the rally, I picked up a card with a request from the One Nation organizers. They asked each person who attended to call ten friends and ask them to vote on November 2nd, and then to recruit two other people to do the same. If each of us who came to National Mall for the rally recruited two friends, and all of us made ten calls each, the results could turn out 4 million votes for candidates who believe in jobs, justice and education for all. As Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said at the rally…that is power.
Our votes have the power to elect candidates who reflect our values — at the local, state and national levels.
Consider yourself recruited as well. Between now and November 2nd, make sure you are registered to vote. Try www.rockthevote.org — this is one very simple way to register.
Please recruit two other people, and pledge to make ten calls each to your friends encouraging them to vote. I will be doing the same, and while I would never tell you who to vote for, I hope that you will vote according to your deepest values for candidates who will stand on the side of love and equality for all of your neighbors.
Thank you.More >
How Can We Create a World Where All Young People Feel Safe?
By Rev. Meg Riley, UUA Church of the Larger Fellowship
When I was in my twenties, I worked in a residential center for teens. These were kids who were abused, abandoned, between foster homes. They were troubled kids.
Life at the shelter wasn’t easy, but there was a strong and healthy staff. The staff operated with a strong awareness of family systems—that the way teens were behaving, which might look illogical to us, was a response to family systems (often augmented by social service systems) in which such behavior filled a need.
Furthermore, when the tenor of the teen residents would veer off course, one of the first questions we would always be asked in staff meetings was, Could there be something in the staff itself which was modeling their behavior—were we mad at each other about something, was there a staff member not pulling her or his weight, was someone in the staff checked out and causing a vacuum?
Those staff meetings could resemble therapy groups. But what I learned was that, 90 percent of the time, if the adults addressed what was going on with us, if we took seriously the ways which we were not present, the teens shaped up. Their life struggles didn’t go away–we didn’t turn into Mayberry—but life in the shelter got markedly better.
I have been reflecting on this, as I watch all of the sudden attention to homophobic bullying, which has recently resulted in four publicized suicides and countless others we’ll never know about, for teens and young adults. Comments after articles I read tend to have a “Throw the book at those bullies! Lock them up for life!” quality. I don’t hear people asking the question which was asked at the residential facility where I worked: Is there something adult culture is modeling which these teens are emulating, albeit in a less nuanced, more stark fashion?
In the half century I have been watching life on this planet, I believe I have watched the United States become a more cruel and less caring place. This is true of the social policies we have created in many cases—eliminating safety nets for the poor, allowing “freedom” for a tiny minority to mean that their wealth eclipses the basic needs of the great majority, allowing people to die because they don’t have health insurance. But it’s not just policy. There is, just plain, less connection and care in our daily lives. There is less occasion for many of us to talk to neighbors, less time for overworked people of all social classes to care for children, more willingness to treat each other as annoying obstacles on overcrowded highways.
That is why I am proud to put on an unflattering orange-gold t-shirt, day after day, with the word LOVE emblazoned across my chest. Lord knows it’s not to look good! I want to remind myself, and to tell everyone who sees me, including young people, that no matter how imperfectly I embody it, LOVE is the reason I get up in the morning and standing on the side of love is my aspiration.
What would it mean for adults in our culture to ask ourselves, “What are we doing that creates the apparent increase in bullying of gay or marginalized kids?” If we asked ourselves, “How do my actions in the day conflict with my aspiration to stand on the side of love?” I wonder what thoughts would emerge, going beyond the obvious, if we thought about how to create a world for kids where they could feel safe, no matter what their identities?More >
Individuals and congregations from across the country will be convening in Washington, D.C. this Saturday, October 2nd, for the One Nation Working Together March. One Nation Working Together is a social movement of individuals and organizations committed to putting America back to work and pulling America back together. Coming from a diverse set of backgrounds, experiences, beliefs and orientations, we are determined to build a more united country with good jobs, equal justice, and quality public education for all.
Join a group of golden T-shirt-clad SSL’ers in our nation’s capitol who will trek to the Lincoln Memorial to witness for a more united world, and equal justice for all.
The group will be meeting outside of the Foggy Bottom/GWU Metro station on the blue and orange metro lines, located at the corner of 23rd & I (Eye) Streets NW, at 11AM. Don’t forget to wear your Standing on the Side of Love shirt if you have one. If not, we will have a few shirts available to purchase. Those who are able to walk to the Lincoln Memorial with our Standing on the Side of Love banner will do so. The walk is a little under a mile, so anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to walk that far is welcome to simply join us at the Lincoln Memorial. The March begins at 12:00pm, ends at 4:00pm. Just look for us on the right side of the reflecting pool as you’re facing the Memorial, and you will spot the yellow shirts and the big yellow banner!
To RSVP or for additional questions, email Orelia Busch at orelia.b [at] gmail.com. For assistance the day of the march, text Orelia at 608.445.6320.
For more information about the march: http://www.onenationworkingtogether.org/content/mainMore >