LGBT Community Feed

The fight for Gay Marriage

An opinion piece in today's NY Times about the gay marriage fight annoyed me.  The author was critical of the way the legal fight for gay marriage was framed and blames that for some of the backlash over the last decade.  He believes more time should have been spent persuading people about the dignity of gay people.  He writes:

American gay activists would be wise to recalibrate their activism, shifting from a rights-based approach, with its emphasis on litigation, to one more oriented toward citizenship and dignity. They may also want to embrace a more ambitious and idealistic mind-set, aiming squarely at public persuasion.

As someone who was a gay rights activist--and in some of the toughest states of the heartland--I don't recognize this criticisms at all.  In fact I've always said that our most difficult work was changing hearts and minds, much of which we had to do before any legislative or judicial decisions.   I know I was deeply involved in such work, as were many that I know.  We weren't running the national orgs in DC or lawyers taking the cases, but we were in communities doing the difficult work of persuasion, generally by living our lives with authenticity and joy.  And doing it in public, as a public witness, and despite the hateful responses we could generate in places like Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. 

I think one reason the author misses the work he references, is that there is no mention of the role of faith communities.  Troy Perry, the founder of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches was maybe the very first gay leader to begin the work for marriage equality.  And he understood that as a religious rite and sacrament, those arguments would need to be framed in spiritual, moral, and emotional ways.  My current denomination, the United Church of Christ, was the first mainline denomination to endorse marriage equality--a decade before the Obergefell ruling.  The work in our denomination and others centered around precisely the sorts of issues, ideas, and arguments that the author thinks was missing in the US effort for marriage equality.

I was simply shocked at the ignorance the column revealed.


TDOR Message

TDOR

Psalm 35

by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

First United Methodist Church

20 November 2023

               Thank you for the invitation to speak tonight.  This opportunity is both an honor and a privilege.  Over the years I’ve attended some of these services and always felt it important, as a cisgender gay man, to be present and to listen.  I did not feel it was my place to speak.

            TJ invited me to speak this year, and I accepted her invitation, and am honored.

            On this Transgender Day of Remembrance and Resilience, I want to frame my words with the 35th Psalm, which opens:

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me!

Take hold of shield and buckler, and rise up to help me!

Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers; say to my soul, “I am your salvation.”

Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life. Let them be turned back and confounded who devise evil against me.

This psalm is what we in the business call an “imprecatory psalm.”  Imprecatory psalms are ones that implore God to deliver us from evil.  And these psalms do that by calling down curses upon our enemies.  Asking God to give them what they deserve.

One of the greatest features of the psalms is that they contain every single human emotion and a poem or song to fit it.  There are plenty of psalms for when we are happy and joyful and celebrating.  There are lament psalms for when we are sad and grieving.  There are psalms to sing and pray when we are offering forgiveness and reconciling with those who have hurt us.  But there are also Psalms to sing and pray when we are angry at the injustices of those who have opposed us and hurt us. 

Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them on.

Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.

For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my life.

Let ruin come on them unawares. And let the net that they hid ensnare them; let them fall in it—to their ruin.

Then my soul shall rejoice in the Lord, exulting in God’s deliverance.

I was a university student in Oklahoma back in 1995 when the federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed.  The next day, as we gathered for our class on the Old Testament prophets, we all were overwhelmed with so many emotions.  My professor, Dr. Kevin Hall, used the occasion to teach us about imprecatory psalms.  These psalms are full of emotional and spiritual value.  We need to pray them when we are hurt and angry.  Expressing these emotions and thoughts is powerful and healing.  Our faith and spirituality are big enough to hold space for our hurt and anger.  God is listening.

All my bones shall say, “O Lord, who is like you? You deliver the weak from those too strong for them, the weak and needy from those who despoil them.”

Malicious witnesses rise up; they ask me about things I do not know.

They repay me evil for good; my soul is forlorn.

But as for me, when they were sick, I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting. I prayed with head bowed on my bosom,

as though I grieved for a friend or a brother; I went about as one who laments for a mother, bowed down and in mourning.

But at my stumbling they gathered in glee, they gathered together against me; ruffians whom I did not know tore at me without ceasing;

they impiously mocked more and more, gnashing at me with their teeth.

Sadly, the lesson that I learned that day after the Oklahoma City bombing, I’ve had plenty of occasions since to put into practice.  When violence has been visited upon the communities I’ve lived in and am a part of.  How many times have we gathered for vigils after a hate crime?  After a trans woman was beaten or killed?  After a drag queen was attacked?  After one of our clubs has been invaded and our siblings massacred?  Many years ago, after having attended and hosted so many, having sung We Shall Overcome and lit candles, I was just too drained.  I was tired of vigils and felt I had no more words to say.  And, yet, the evil doesn’t stop, and neither do we.  We must continue to remember and resist, for that is the source of our hope, the power of our deliverance.

How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my life from the lions!

Then I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you.

Do not let my treacherous enemies rejoice over me, or those who hate me without cause wink the eye.

For they do not speak peace, but they conceive deceitful words against those who are quiet in the land.

They open wide their mouths against me; they say, “Aha, Aha, our eyes have seen it.”

You have seen, O Lord; do not be silent! O Lord, do not be far from me!

Wake up! Bestir yourself for my defense, for my cause, my God and my Lord!

Last May I found myself reading and praying this psalm often.  It was on repeat in my consciousness.  Our state legislature had failed in its responsibilities to its citizens and enacted a cruel and inhumane law against trans children and adolescents. 

Just like the psalm says, lies were told about us.  We were mocked and ridiculed.  In public we were called horrible things and had too many times to sit there quietly and endure the insults because that’s the protocol.  Then our governor called us minions of Lucifer.

We demand to be rescued from these lies and deceptions.  We insist upon our vindication. 

Vindicate me, O Lord, my God, according to your righteousness, and do not let them rejoice over me.

Do not let them say to themselves, “Aha, we have our heart’s desire.” Do not let them say, “We have swallowed you up.”

Let all those who rejoice at my calamity be put to shame and confusion; let those who exalt themselves against me be clothed with shame and dishonor.

            After the vote last spring, I sent notes to the senators I had personally lobbied who ended up voting against us.  I used the notecards with our church printed on the cover, and then hand wrote inside them these words from this psalm, “Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life. Let them be turned back and confounded who devise evil against me.”   I forcefully underlined the word “shame.”  That felt really good.

            And we will be vindicated.  Because we know that truth and right are on our side. 

            We don’t know when or how, but we have faith that our deliverance will come.  We will be rescued.  Justice will be done.  We will receive the honor and respect that we deserve.  Violence and hate crimes will no longer be visited upon our trans heroes.  Trans kids and adolescents will receive the care they are entitled.  Care!  We have to fight so hard for other people to be caring.

            And the reason we know we will be vindicated is precisely because we won’t quit fighting.  Each and every day we will remember, and we will resist.  Together, organized, powerful, unstoppable, we will not quit until justice is done and right is restored.

            For God is with us, on our side, as the very power of hope that drives us. 

            And so this psalm closes:

Let those who desire my vindication shout for joy and be glad, and say evermore, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of God’s servant.”

Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all day long.


Raising Them

Raising Them: Our Adventure in Gender Creative ParentingRaising Them: Our Adventure in Gender Creative Parenting by Kyl Myers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A memoir of one family's effort to raise a child without assigning them a gender at birth based upon their genitalia, allowing the child to form their own identity and gender expression. For all parents trying to be more open and less binary in the way they raise their kids, this should be helpful.

View all my reviews

Emotional Overload

Emotional Overload

John 21:1-19

by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

First Central Congregational Church

21 May 2023

            I almost entitled this sermon “Gone Fishin’,” thinking of the Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby duet.  Reflecting on this text, I thought about my Dad going fishing.  He was a high school principal and a work-aholic, a type A personality (which is one reason he died of a heart attack at 41).  One of the few times he took for himself away from all his responsibilities was to go fishing with his friends, and drink a few beers, and relax.

            But I decided on “Emotional Overload” instead for the title.  This Easter season I’ve been focused on the reactions of the disciples to their experiences of Jesus’s death and resurrection—the running of Peter and the beloved disciple, the weeping of Mary, the fear of those gathered in the upper room that eventually led to their empowerment, the doubting and then believing of Thomas.  In this final, poignant story from the Gospel of John, we encounter a few of the disciples who’ve gotten away from Jerusalem and everything that has happened to them.  They’ve gone to the lake, to fish, and build a campfire on the beach.  This is a story that resonates easily with us, because we can identify with this act of getting away from it all, the act of rest and recreation, embodied in a fishing trip with friends.

            The title I did choose came from Gary D. Jones’s commentary on this passage when he says, of the disciple’s fishing trip, “This is how human beings often respond to emotional overload.”

            Think about it.  Their friend they spent pretty much every day with for the last three years was assaulted, arrested, tortured, and brutally murdered, and they were eyewitnesses to some of that.  They feared the same would happen to them.  Surely they have some PTSD? 

            And after all that horror, they then have a series of encounters with a living, resurrected Jesus.  How overwhelming must that have been?  I’m certain that they couldn’t wrap their brains around it.  I’m sure they were feeling all the feels—such a swirl of emotions that they couldn’t figure out which ones they were feeling at any given moment. 

            And, so, they just got away from it all.  Tried to take a break, have some rest, do something familiar.  They went fishing, as a way of coping with their emotional overload.

            And emotional overload didn’t seem to just be a great lens for examining this story, but also timely and appropriate for us. 

            For one thing, this is Mental Health Sunday.  We are a WISE congregation.  Which is an official designation of our denomination, the United Church of Christ.  This congregation has committed to be welcoming, inclusive, supportive, and engaged for mental health and wellbeing.  And, a point of pride, we were the second WISE church in the entire denomination and the hosts of the very first WISE Conference.

One of the ways we are living into our WISE commitment today is through the town hall following worship to discuss and brainstorm about the current public health crisis in adolescent mental health.  I hope you’ll join us in Memorial Hall if this issue is of concern to you, or you are a parent, or you are part of the ministries of this church that care for, educate, or support our teens.

So, emotional overload seemed fitting for Mental Health Awareness.

But, then, it also became an emotionally overwhelming week for thousands of us. It was particularly a rough week for the local LGBTQ community and those of us who’ve spent much time and energy this year trying to thwart legislative attempts to rob us of our freedom of conscience and bodily autonomy.  Please check in with your queer and trans family and friends, for they are under assault, and they need you to be loudly and vigorously defending them right now.  This is a struggle for the survival and autonomy of queer bodies.

            And once I leaned into this idea of emotional overload, a number of serendipities occurred this week.  And I delight in serendipities.  Especially during an emotionally difficult week.

The first serendipity occurred on Tuesday—that rough and difficult Tuesday.  One of my Facebook memories that day was a post Kerrie Kleppin-Winn had shared on my timeline two years ago of “tiny sermons by tiny people.”   It was a post that she’d seen somewhere else on Facebook and then shared with me and Katie Miller. 

These tiny sermons were one sentence comments by children that resonate with profound meaning and humor.  Kerrie had originally shared them on May 16, 2020, right around that moment when we all knew for certain that the Covid isolation wasn’t going away soon.  The children’s comments resonated deeply in May of 2020.

But I also found the wisdom of these kids was helpful for me this week of emotional overload.  So, I was quite glad that they came to my notice again in my Facebook memories.  Here’s what these children preached:

2-year-old Henry said, “Don’t wipe my tears away; I want to feel them on my face.”

6-year-old Ezra remarked, “I know two things that are permanent: love and sharpies.”

An anonymous six-year-old commented, “Sometimes I fall down on purpose so that I can take a break.”

Gideon, 7-years-old said, “Sometimes when my feelings are big, I like to sing them.”

Keira, also seven, advised, “I’ll just take a nap.  That’s how you solve that.”

2-year-old Jameson wisely proclaimed, “I’m too sad for pants.”

And one 4-year-old cut to the chase and simply said, “This is an F word day.”

            I feel that 4-year-old.  I feel them all actually.  And what wonderful advice.  There’s something in those seven comments for most people, most days—taking breaks, singing, napping, cursing, crying, loving, etc. 

            Another serendipity occurred Wednesday morning.  It was the children’s spring concert at Field Club Elementary where Ashley Lidgett is the music teacher.  The theme of the concert was “Rules for Living” and included a series of songs filled with advice on how to live well.  I’m grateful to Miss Lidgett for sharing the lyrics with me so I could quote them in today’s sermon.

            Mrs. Riha and Mr. Jackman’s second grade classes sang “Positive,” which includes these words,

I can close my eyes and picture how I want my world to be.

I deserve and affirm, my happy thoughts are good for me.

I believe in who I am, I know my thoughts are mine.

I can change the script I write and positively shine!

            Ms. Noon and Ms. Head’s second grade classes sang a couple of songs that I really liked, and not just because Sebastian, my son, was singing them.  Though I’m sure that helped.  The song “Rules for Living” included this advice:

Laugh a lot.  Smile a log.

Eat your veggies and fruit a lot.

Work and play well today.

And say nice things a lot.

Read a lot.  Rest a lot.

Wash your hands a face a lot.

Miss Ropp and Mrs. Kerwin’s fourth grade class opened the concert with “Responsible.”

No matter what the outside throws at me,
I’m choosin’ to react responsibly with

Decency, fairness, honesty, respect.

Discipline, justice, courage, and respect.

Integrity, compassion, morality, respect.

Humility, kindness,

And did I say respect?

Those fourth graders also sang “Do the Good You Know” with this advice:

We all have sorrow.  We all have pain.

Sometimes our sunshine turns into rain.

When someone falls right next to you,

Then you must do what you can do.

Do the good you know.  Let compassion show.

You can’t save the world alone, but you can do the good you know.

            In a moment of emotional overload, the wisdom of children, singing, reminding us of all the most important things that truly matter, if we but listen. 

These disciples had had too much.  They’d felt all the feels.  And, now, they just needed a break.  And so they took it.

            Maybe we should also understand Jesus’s conversation with Peter differently than we often do?  Maybe Jesus isn’t shaming Peter.  Maybe Jesus simply wants Peter to realize that it is from an honest embrace of his own vulnerability and his failings that he’s going to be the best and most effective pastor and leader that he can be?

            I’m guessing Jesus was deeply aware of all the feelings that Peter was feeling, and Jesus is reminding him that it is those feelings which give us our power.

            The emotions that overwhelm and overload us are the source of our compassion, our agency, our strength.

            The other serendipity this week was that the next book up on my to-read stack was Tricia Hersey’s Rest Is Resistance.   I began reading it on Wednesday while eating lunch at the Crescent Moon, and it was also exactly what I needed in the moment.  It’s like the Spirit knows!

I’m still reading this one so I’m likely to have more insights from it in the future, but early on she writes:

We must see our bodies as a miracle, and a place of reverence where existing in exhaustion is not normal or acceptable.  The beauty of resting knows that we are blessed to have a body, to be chosen to be alive, to breathe, to make choices, and to proclaim that our bodies are our own, is a deep practice in care.  It is the beginning of a revolution, radical, and a resistance.

            One of the many voices this week saying “if you are emotionally overwhelmed, take a break, rest, relax.”  Breathe.  Go listen to birdsong (which the Washington Post recommended this week for its scientifically proven positive effects on mental health).  Taking a break when we are emotionally overloaded is one of the ways we love each other.  One of the ways we get in touch with the divine source of our strength.  Where we can meet Jesus, and find the sustenance we need.

            Rev. Sarah Lund, who spoke at this church many years ago when we hosted that first WISE Conference for mental health, has written a new resource for teens to support their mental and emotional health and well-being.  She entitled it the “Blessed Youth Survival Guide.”  And the prayer it ends with I’ve planned on using in our town hall today, but I realized that the prayer is also the best way to end this sermon on emotional overload:

You are amazing.
You are beautiful.

You are complex (in a good way).

You are a beloved human being.

Your brain is different and good.

The fact that you exist is a miracle and a dream come true.

You are here for a reason.

You may not know your reason yet, but trust me, it is a really good one.

Your life is important.

Getting better takes time.

Be patient and gentle with yourself.

You are more than your disability, disease, illness, or diagnosis.

It’s ok to be different.

It’s ok not to be ok for a while.

Your life matters to me.

Try your best.

Breathe.

Stay.


Testimony Opposing LB574

LB574 would ban gender-affirming care.  The Nebraska Medical Association, physicians, social workers, mental health professionals, suicide prevention organizations, business and religious leaders joined with many trans youth and their parents to oppose this legislation.  Here is the testimony I delivered.  The second page I handed to the committee was the letter from the Nebraska Conference of the United Church of Christ opposing this bill and two others that would harm trans youth.

Testimony Opposing LB574

Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

Senior Minister, First Central Congregational United Church of Christ of Omaha

Just last week a mother in my congregation called me from the emergency room at Immanuel Hospital.  She was there with her trans daughter who had attempted to end her life.  The distraught mother kept talking about how awful society is to trans people.

I don’t know if the daughter was following the news and the debate over bills like this one.  I don’t know if the existence of this bill directly contributed to her suicide attempt.  But I do know that the climate of bigotry and discrimination to which a bill like this contributes was a factor.

So, I come to you today as a Christian pastor, who only last week cared for a family confronted by the need for gender-affirming care.  I’m asking you not to further burden good people of Christian faith with unnecessary obstacles and political controversy.  I’m asking you to uphold the dignity of the human person and to defend religious liberty and the freedom of conscience.

In my denomination, the United Church of Christ, descended from the Pilgrims and Puritans, we affirm that the beauty and blessedness of God's creation is present in all people.  We make a conscious and deliberate decision to celebrate the diversity of creation as uniquely embodied in people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+). We honor the sacredness of people's lives through extravagant welcome and unconditional affirmation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.   The mission statement of the Nebraska Conference of the United Church of Christ proclaims: “to live into God’s extravagant welcome and advocate for justice. So that all know love, safety, belonging, and dignity.” 

In what I distributed you also have a letter from the Nebraska Conference of the United Church of Christ stating our religious opposition to this bill and all the clergy, congregations, and lay people who have also added their names to the letter.

This bill violates our Christian faith.  It violates the sacredness of God’s creation.  It is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This bill discriminates against my denomination and my congregation, threatening our religious liberty and freedoms of conscience. 

Please oppose LB574.


The New Negro

The New Negro: The Life of Alain LockeThe New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke by Jeffrey C. Stewart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"A spirit lurks in the shadows of America that, if summoned, can launch a renaissance of our shared humanity. That is his most profound gift to us."

So glad to finally read this major, award-winning book. I spent most of my sabbatical summer, and then some, getting through it.

While there is much to commend this biography, it really feels too long, going too in depth into minutiae at times. And was at times repetitive, I think because of the challenge of a text so long. It needed serious editing.

View all my reviews

Uncoupled

Uncoupled (TV Series 2022– ) - IMDb

Over the weekend I finished season one of the new Netflix series Uncoupled, about a late forties NYC gay realtor whose partner of 17 years leaves him unexpectedly.

Now, I'm glad I had some distance on my own break-up and divorce so I could really enjoy this show, including laughing at parallels to myself.

I thought it did a great job of exploring the emotions and experiences of breaking up at my age.  Though not everything in the show has happened to me (no one has wanted to botox my butt, for instance), a number of the moments were similar to experiences I've had.

And in its more emotional moments it resonated as well.  NPH's character complains about having to enter a dating world he hates and can't figure out, when he had been happy and content with the life he had.  His ex talks about feeling like the future they had as a couple was inevitable and feeling suffocated by that, whereas NPH says that's what he enjoyed and found comforting.  These resonated with me.  And most significant was this powerful line, "Because you had a mid-life crisis, now I have to have one."


Max Detweiler

May be an image of 2 people

 

Last night Sebastian and I went to see The Sound of Music at the Rose Theatre.  Somehow I made it to 48 without seeing a staged production of the musical, and I'm not quite sure how.  

Anyway, it was a good and enjoyable production, and also Sebastian's first full-length stage musical.  He seemed to enjoy it and really be into the songs.

My one new takeaway from this production was the now smack my forehead obvious conclusion that Max Detweiler is gay.  Which adds layers of complexity to his character and the decisions he makes, particularly why he chooses to get along to survive rather than take the bolder actions of Captain Von Trapp.  

What do you think?