Belonging

The need to belong is a deeply human aspiration. We wear the labels of belonging as badges of acceptance. To be accepted is also high on our scale of needs. The yearning to be welcomed and celebrated as a member of something is a strong human motivator. These were my thoughts as I watched the parade of flags at the recent Pride celebration in La Crosse. The flags are symbols of identity. They are in direct response to cultural disapproval and censorship.

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Never quite comfortable in society’s boxes, I understand the urge to fly a new flag – and especially one that has not yet been pigeon holed into meaninglessness. So I marveled at the youth donning their flags determined to be unique, and challenging the status quo. It is good they are given a safe space to discover. And when the organization called “Free Mom Hugs” showed up in force to celebrate Pride, they added a touch of humanity and healing desperately needed. Too many gay youth are unwelcomed at home and these mothers giving hugs play an important role in reminding them that they are indeed loved for who they are.

Another coalescing of people that has heightened my observation skills are the numerous versions of Christianity. And of course there are the political affiliations that many cling to, which satisfy the need to belong while simultaneously separating us from others. The value and strength of community is undeniable. That can be witnessed at any sports event. I have yet to understand the value of separation.

I have found it far simpler to declare myself a human being and allow for the affiliation of “citizen of the Earth”. It seems to be a direct route to the source of the need to belong. It is certainly a satisfying one.

We remain one People, one Earth. We belong.

 

Tremendous thanks to WDRT for their continued supporting and for airing “Consider This”. You can hear my 2 minute commentaries every Thursday at 5:30 pm CST or listen via the web.

Inserted photo is of a memorial for murdered transgender women.

Gay flag compliments of wikipedia commons.

Transgender Violence

I remember when the Berlin wall came down and someone posed the question, “Whom will they hate next?” I remember squirming a bit as I realized targets of hate are people who are different.

It has been fifty years since the Stonewall Riots, which launched the modern Gay Rights movement. At that time the term “gay” covered it all. Many lesbians, gays and bi-sexuals now enjoy status quo lifestyles. Many attend churches and synagogues that are accepting of “gay” life. Some hold public office and climb the corporate ladder. And then there are those who do not fit so neatly into straight packages.

June is Pride Month and it began in New York’s Stonewall Inn with trans people leading the charge to end police brutality and harassment. And while much has changed since 1969, many are left behind in the push for equal and human rights.

People, who define themselves as transgender, questioning or two spirit, are too often marginalized by race, gender and socio-economic disparity.  It is a systemic issue based in prejudice and ignorance, leaving some at the mercy of human trafficking and survival sex work.

Young, indigenous and black transgender face some of the highest suicide and murder rates in the world. Violence and harassment are epidemic.

Many transgender migrants, who seek asylum, have been punished with solitary confinement and denied health care by our government.

In a dominant culture that fears the “other,” transgender people are persecuted for being different. Indigenous people are often the very first to defend their humanity.

It is time for people of faith to set aside their fear of “sin” and their judgment of right and wrong in order to conquer the greater evil, which is hate. And the LGB community needs to step up the fight for human rights for all of us.

This lack of humanity must end.

 

 

This transgender flag* from Wikimedia Commons: The Transgender Pride flag was designed by Monica Helms, and was first shown at a pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona, USA in 2000.

The flag represents the transgender community and consists of five horizontal stripes, two light blue, two pink, with a white stripe in the center.

Monica describes the meaning of the flag as follows:

“The light blue is the traditional color for baby boys, pink is for girls, and the white in the middle is for those who are transitioning, those who feel they have a neutral gender or no gender, and those who are intersexed. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it will always be correct. This symbolizes us trying to find correctness in our own lives”.

*Unlike the wider LGBT communities worldwide which have adopted the Rainbow flag, the various transgender individuals, organizations and communities around the world have not coalesced around one single flag design.

 

Rethinking Genocide

Dominant cultures share common threads. They forcibly and systematically destroy cultures and peoples who are different. They do this by killing and torturing, separating children from families, forcing indoctrination on the young, and by the rape and murder of women and girls. They do it with swift first strikes and then gradually through police tactics, court injustice, social crimes and environmental destruction. The governments of these dominant cultures carry on the atrocities for generations. Education and religion are used to maintain the status quo and to create an illusion that “all is as it should be.”

Since WWII we have termed this cultural and human destruction as genocide. In 1948, the Untied Nations created the legal definition of what was then coined the “crime of crimes”.

Ideas take time to take hold. This week dominant culture took a blow with the release of Canada’s National Inquiry into the epidemic of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.  Exhaustive studies and final conclusions prepared by professional Indigenous women were presented to the Canadian government.

Within the findings is the declaration that the Canadian government by omission and commission engaged in the genocide of Indigenous people.

As one survivor put it, “You can’t un-hear the truth.”

Here are a few words from the final damning report: “These violations amount to nothing less than the deliberate, often covert campaign of genocide against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA [two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual] people.”

Humankind must find a way to end the perpetuation of violence on Indigenous peoples.  Dominant cultures everywhere must grapple with the racist and sexist attitudes that are upheld throughout their systems and policies. The United States has developed an institutionalized apathy that needs to be challenged.

Kudos to all who are fighting this inhuman disease however you are called to do so.

 

For more on the report and its findings and to give credit for the photo used visit Eagle Feather News.

On Soundcloud. Thanks to WDRT for airing “Consider This.”

Seeking Asylum

I would like to clarify some misunderstandings regarding asylum seekers. An asylum seeker is not an illegal immigrant. An asylum seeker is one who because of the very real fear of violence, displacement, hunger or other persecution is forced to leave their home country in search of shelter in a foreign country.

Adopted in 1948, Article 14(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees all people the right to seek asylum. These people are known as refugees. This is international law, yet each individual country creates unique pathways for asylum seekers. Today we are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis on our southern border. Thousands of people, families and children are seeking asylum in the United States due to the inhuman conditions of life in their home countries. How we treat these people is within our domain.

When an asylum seeker enters our country at a legal port of entry and proves through documentation the facts of their case, they begin a process, which may take months to complete. During that time they have two options. If they can find a sponsor, they are allowed to live with that sponsor. They are not allowed to work and must strictly adhere to all court dates, check ins and other policies set forth by ICE. If they do not have a sponsor they are forced to reside in a detention center.

I am sponsoring a young family who were granted the possibility to seek asylum in the United States. Their journey has been ongoing for the past three months. They speak very little English and are at the mercy of strangers and a very complicated system.

Kindness and compassion must not slip away as bureaucracy steps in. Respect is imperative. At the end of the day we are all human.

 

 

The photo shown is of the ankle bracelets that must be worn at all times by asylum seekers.

The Power of Inclusion

It seems these days you have to grab hold of hope wherever you find it. While cleaning my house I accidentally tuned into the inaugural ceremony of Tony Evers to become the 46thgovernor of Wisconsin. Ever the political cynic, I half-heartedly gave my ear to the broadcast. As the opening songs commenced my first reaction was “nice touch” as I listened to the young and diverse people performing. And I began to feel the inclusion and welcoming of this new day.

The next moment that caught my attention was the introduction of the MC and his telling of being a Big Brother. He made me smile as he told us how much he gained in giving his time to another, and I moved closer to the radio and gave myself permission to listen with a bit more intent.

It was time for the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance. And when the MC informed us that the pledge would be led by the youth of GSafe, I knew I would be listening to the inauguration in its entirety.

GSafe for those of you, who may not know, is an organization in support of gay youth. Having grown up without that kind of support or that kind of inclusion, I was really touched and began to cry. I realized again the power of inclusion and the wisdom of it.

And then the words of Bella Wabindato of the Bad River Tribe really hit home. She spoke of the importance of water and the love she has of her people. And she told us, “ racial equity would mean that other people see my people as I do, as people.”

The greatest leaders are those who allow others to lead. We are so ready for this.

Best wishes Governor, continue to surround yourself with loving and kind people.

We will all benefit.

 

 

 

You can listen to this piece on Soundcloud.

Love’s Opposite

It has been 20 years since the gruesome murder of Matthew Shepherd. Shepherd was a young gay man and the violence surrounding his death led to the creation of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act. It is an American Act of Congress, passed on October 22, 2009, and signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009.

Controversy came to this case in the form of a challenge as to whether it was in fact a hate crime. The claim is that one of the men accused of the murder previously had sex with Matthew. Drugs and theft were also given as the reasons why the death of Matthew Shepherd should not be considered a crime of hate.

I had to dig a bit to understand all of the twisted thinking regarding this case. After a bit of reflection and reading about the case, the statements made by the killers and the reasons given to dismiss this as a crime of hate, I have come to this: people wanting to dismiss Matthews murder as a hate crime are willing to ignore the obvious. And what is the obvious? Self-loathing is the darkest form of hate. It leads people to do all sorts of horrific acts. And while the secondary drug and robbery issues may be credible, they are symptoms, not answers.

Self – hatred born of society’s judgment of good versus bad, the demand for strict adherence to gender, the hierarchical construct of hyper masculinity and the acceptance of violence are not new.

It was witnessed in the early rise of Nazi Germany and the acceptance of an openly known homosexual leader, Ernst Rohm. Rohm was instrumental in the early rise of Hitler; some have even suggested sexual relations between the two. Hitler’s early discussions regarding homosexuality were to ignore it or to consider it the outcome of “raucous warriors”. But as the purification of the Aryan nation took a stronger hold, Hitler began the “cleansing” of anyone deemed to have imperfect character. Rohm was the most prominent homosexual and highest-ranking Nazi official to be killed during the Night of the Long Knife, June 30 – July 2, 1934, at Hitler’s request.

Closer to home we have Roy Cohen, a lawyer who worked for Joe McCarthy, Ronald Reagan and eventually Donald J. Trump, to have a closer look at self loathing which manifests in harming others. Cohn was instrumental in targeting many government officials and cultural icons for suspected Communist ties, and also for alleged homosexuality.

In a 2008 article published in The New Yorker magazine, Roger Stone (who worked closely with Cohen during Reagan’s presidential run) was quoted as saying: “Roy was not gay. He was a man who liked having sex with men. Gays were weak, effeminate. He always seemed to have these young blond boys around. It just wasn’t discussed. He was interested in power and access.”

Roy Cohn died in 1986, of complications from AIDS, at the age of 59. He never admitted he had the disease.

So when you tell me the young men who savagely killed the well-known gay man were not consumed by hate, I think there is plenty of historical evidence to the contrary.

Self-loathing is the darkest form of hate. It leads people to injustice and to murder. We would be wise to not ignore it. We would be wise to not encourage the mindset that breeds it.

You Need Us.

It seems the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on bigotry. A baker has won the right to not bake for a gay wedding. And now intellectuals are busy trying to tell us why the decision is OK.

Well, I grew up during the time when people like me were forced to meet in the shadows. I witnessed the sadness, the retreat to bars and alcohol and drugs, and the shunning of family. I watched as police arrived at the nightclub and were handed a sack of money to keep them from shutting the place down or beating up the patrons. I lived through Ronald Reagan’s ignorance over AIDS that cost the lives of young gay men… and I am here to tell you none of it was OK.

This recent salt to the wound, in the name of religion, will not be ignored by those of us who know better. The insistence to divide humanity is only working for the self-righteous. Human beings are capable of much more than this.

No amount of intellectualism can hide the stench of bigotry. No amount of legal wrangling can change the course that those brave Queens and Lesbians carved for us at Stonewall on June 28, 1969.

And who is this “us”? We are your sons, daughters, your clergy and politicians. We are two spirited at our best and made sickened by your disgust at our worst. How you treat us is indicative of how you look upon yourself: your secret passion to fit in, your secret loathing of anything that challenges your sameness. We will not return to your shadow. You need us.

So I am not celebrating this unwise decision to uphold ignorance by the Supreme Court. But I will continue to honor the gift of my Creator to be the unique person that I am, and I will surely not surrender my ability to be kind, even in the face of such vile hatred masked as religion.

To those who are different, I say, “Come out come out wherever you are”. Let Love win. Light will always trump darkness. Don’t despair. We got this.

 

This piece aired on WDRT‘s “Consider This” on June 7.

You can listen on Soundcloud.

Photo compliments of Wikipedia Commons.