With One Hand Tied Behind My Back
As a gay teen being raised in rural Northern California in a fairly conservative area I was alienated from religion. Having a faith or religion and being gay were completely incompatible in the culture of my high school. Until Ellen DeGeneres “came out” via her sitcom I had absolutely no queer role models; people who were out, proud, and living happy lives who I could look up to, and certainly no queer or allied clergy. I thought being gay meant I could never have a religion, until I found Quakerism.
Quakerism gave me a spiritual community which accepted me as I was, which I soon found to be a crucial part of my spiritual journey. As a religious community Quakerism became both a refuge and grounding for my political work as I got older, and where I first learned to articulate the language that every person has inherent worth and dignity. I sometimes think it is ironic that spirituality, the very thing which alienated me, also had the power to affirm and protect me.
The world of being a teenager in the closet was hard to describe. I try to tell people I felt as if I was trying to swim with one hand tied behind my back. I strongly believe Standing on the Side of Love is about younger people growing up without the paralyzing silence I had to grow up with. It is about finding that ground beneath our feet on which to stand up for our principles. I’m talking about the concrete instances of oppression that Standing on the Side of Love resists, because it is when we are confronted with hatred and intolerance that we find out what we are willing to do for our principles. I have found in my own activism that this process of taking action is a healing one.
My first reaction to hearing about Standing on the Side of Love was this: it’s about time. Rev. Meg Riley, who I have had the privilege to work with, explains that SSL, “reaches through Unitarian Universalism to everyone.” It’s about time faith stopped being a tool used to cast people out, but a shield to protect them. I am happy and excited to be part of that, as well as part of such a dynamic and brilliant team. I look forward to hearing from you via our Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Website, and to telling our story in a way that reaches through all our faiths, to those who are still trying to swim with one hand behind their back.
Yours in the light (as the Quakers say),