Category: Inspirational Quote

Lies that affect us and Truths we proclaim

Beautiful participants at the Mid-Atlantic LGBTQ+ Conference

This past weekend I gave the keynote address at the Mid-Atlantic LGBTQ+ Conference at Bloomsburg University. The title of my presentation was The Power of Words: Lies, Truth, and Liberated Community. In addition to sharing some of the wisdom of poets who inspired and aided me after I came out, I invited the audience to reflect on powerful words in their own lives. These included lies as well as truths.

Lies get so much of their power when they are unsaid, hidden in the folds of our inner life. Once brought into the light though they often shrivel up, lose so much of their power, and at times can suddenly look downright silly.

As people started filling in the hall and at the half way point during my talk, I invited audience members onto the stage. There I had two of my manual typewriters set up each with a sign in front of them. One said Lies and the other Truths. I asked them to consider the lies they have heard about themselves and about us as LGBTQ+ people. I asked them to think about the truths about themselves and us as LGBTQ+ that need to be shared. I invited them to type up these lies and truths–to manually punch out the words.

Here are Lies and Truths they shared. I also invite you to add your own lies and truths in the comment section.

Lies

You are not enough

It’s just a phase

A Royal Quiet DeLuxe and an Olivetti ready for participants to type their Lies and Truths

bisexuality does not exist

people of the lgbt community are just looking for attention

it is not possible to switch pronouns

there are only 2 genders

lesbians hate men

I’m not enough

we can’t exist as people first and lgbt individuals second

you only think this because you are adopted

you are too sensitive to be a guy

I don’t have short hair because I am a lesbian

pansexuals and bisexuals always want to have threesomes

bisexuals don’t exist

random guy at bar — “Oh, you’re a lesbian? What a waste.”

my sexual identity means I have to act a certain way, you could be gay but you don’t have to…

you can’t like boys and girls. You have to choose one or none

because I was born with female parts, therefore I must be a girl

I am not a true trans male if I refer to my assigned at birth genitals

bisexuals are unfaithful

I am not enough

kids can’t be trans because they just don’t know yet

I am not worthy of what I have

black people are all the same

bisexuals are just confused

you’ll get over it

you don’t know yourself yet

I’m not good enough for love and affection

I should not be proud of who I am

being queer is abnormal

no one will love you if you don’t make up your mind (on gender)

no one will love you if you don’t like sex

Audre Lorde’s words gave me life when I came out. The night before the conference, I typed up my notes on my Olivetti.

Truths

people can be religious and accepting at the same time

bisexuals are a valid part of the LGBTQIA community. It is not a phase.

my identity is not determined by my birth sex, and I can define my bisexuality however I chose

sexuality is fluid and natural

not all religious people have to be straight

we have always been here. we always will.

I have value; I have worth

Asexuality is real

there is no correct way to be lgbtq+

You belong here

you are precious, so precious

Your Creator loves you as you are

I’m happy with who I am

My voice is important

My life is worth living. I can be happy

I am still nonbinary even though I am feminine presenting. My gender identity is valid.

Bisexuality is not a phase

I am everything I am supposed to be

It is true that transgender lives will not be erased, rather we will continue to thrive.

40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ

I am what I believe I am

We are valid, we are all beautiful, we matter too

who we are is not a choice

we aren’t ashamed of who we are

I am nonbinary but use binary pronouns

people say they accept me, but I know that most do not accept me fully, and I’m okay with that.

Being gay is okay; love yourself

my level of being out and physical expression does not change my identity

someone cannot understand your identity, but still love and support you. My parents don’t always understand, but they are the ones who support me the most.

you are capable of loving and being loved.

 

 

Courage, Compassion, and Tenacity

In reading the monthly journal, The Sun, not to be confused with the daily British tabloid with the same name, I have been moved by an extended interview with the Black intellectual, Cornel West. It is rich and deep. I find myself reading it like a devotional, in small sections, so I can reflect. This passage in particular stood out.

West: There will never be a true paradise in this world. There will never be any kingdom of heaven in history. There will never be any utopian society.

The question is: Do we have the courage and tenacity and compassion to try to move beyond our tribalism and narcissism? That’s the best we can do. Biologist E.O. Wilson says our basic problem as a species is that we are just too selfish, narcissistic, and tribal. Anything that goes us away from those proclivities is a major contribution to progress.

There are different ways of overcoming our narcissism and tribalism: secular, scientific, artistic, religious. All of them are concerned with unsettling our ego so that love and compassion can flow.

 

Walt Whitman, Time Travel, and Climate Change

I have been reflecting on queer responses to climate change including exploring the past to learn from our ancestors like Whitman in the 19th Century and LGBTQ activists in the late 20th Century.
In writing to my friend Liz, a fellow queer Quaker, who lives in the heat of Florida much of the year, I outlined some of the considerations I make when considering LGBTQ/Queer responses to global climate change.
  • For me it is important to bring in humor. Comedy is the very opposite of what people expect for such a serious topic. LGBTQ people have such a rich history of campy humor, satire, and farce which helps us dig into serious issues and confront the public with reality.

 

  • Shifting the focus from individual actions and behavioral change to instead focus on collective action that leads to systems change is another component I also consider. This is not a new thought of course, but for many people in North America the take-away they have gotten from mainstream environmental messages is that we need to be better consumers–change our lightbulbs, buy eco-products, reduce, reuse, recycle. Yes, this is important to do, but in addressing climate change, a bolder and bigger responses is necessary. 

 

  • I seek to change climate talk and move it away from distant issues that do not motivate people, like the plight of polar bears. Instead I bring climate change closer to home and look how it affects coffee, LGBTQ homelessness, and pets
  • Finally, imagining the future—not a dystopian or utopian one—but instead a realistic, sustainable, stable, world where people treat each other with fairness and dignity is something worth envisioning. So many focus on  gloom and doom when it comes to climate change; being able to envision a pragmatic successful outcome is downright queer.
Nearly 120 years ago Whitman wrote a stunning poem about taking the ferry across NY’s East River from Brooklyn to Manhattan right after dawn. In addition to taking in the people, the physical experience of the quick trip, and the nature that cannot be hidden even in a major city, Whitman does something extraordinary. He travels to the future to write about you and me, individuals in living crowds, folks in his future who also take a ferry ride. He connects to us over time and space.
Having recently taken a three hour ferry ride in the Westfjords of Iceland with my husband, Glen, I am shocked at how similar the experience is to what Whitman describes. Even the detail of marveling over the sight and flight of a seagull gets recreated.
This ability to imagine others in the future is an essential part of the work that I do.
Here is an excerpt of Walt Whitman’s poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.3
It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

I too many and many a time cross’d the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the air floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies and left the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward the south,
Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams,
Look’d at the fine centrifugal spokes of light round the shape of my head in the sunlit water,
Look’d on the haze on the hills southward and south-westward,
Look’d on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged with violet,
Look’d toward the lower bay to notice the vessels arriving,

You can read the whole poem at Poetry Foundation.
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.

- Amelia Earhart

Laugh and cry and tell stories. Sad stories about bodies stolen, bodies no longer here. Enraging stories about the false images, devastating lies, untold violence. Bold, brash stories about reclaiming our bodies and changing the world.

- Eli Clare, Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation