Today I got to hang out with two amazing grandmothers. Bonnie Tinker and her partner Sarah were lesbian moms over 25 years ago–trail blazers. For years Bonnie has worked as a queer activist fighting for marriage equality through her role at Love Makes a Family here in Oregon. A committed Quaker, she also protests the war in multiple ways and has done much to address issues of racism and skin privilege. Her partner, Sarah, may get arrested tomorrow for a direct non-violent action aimed at a recruiters office. They are movers and shakers.
Bonnie is the one who has organized most of my presentations here in Portland. Seems EVERYONE knows her. Today she and her co-worker, Cecil, sat down with me and taught me some of the non-violent techniques they use. She developed this cool and effective method they call LARA. The idea is to build connections and relationship with opponents.
L–Listen! Not just to the words, but listen with your ears and heart to hear the needs, the fears the concerns of your opponent. Find common ground. What are they really saying. Also, think that maybe there was a time that you could have said the same things.
A–Affirmation. Don’t attack your opponent or react to their words rather let your opponent know in what ways you agree, in what ways you see their good intent.
R–Respond. Don’t deny their concerns or questions. Respond to them thoughtfully.
A–Add. Share the information you want to share. They will need new words to clothe the new feelings they have after speaking with you.
The other grandmother I met is a woman who went to George Fox University over 60 years ago. The wife of a Quaker minister and professor, she and her husband came to the understanding some years ago that queer folks are treated badly by their conservative Quaker group.
This woman, 86 year old, now a widow, speaks clearly about the needs of LGBT folks and especially shares the message to other straight conservative Evangelicals that they need to change their ways.
She lives right next to the campus of George Fox, a very conservative Christian school and takes her role as a straight ally seriously, speaking with friends, members of her Quaker church and faculty and administration at the school.
She joked that at age 86 she feels that she can say pretty much whatever she likes. After serving the church for over 60 years, they know the depth of her faith and if they have a problem with her message, then it is their problem. Very healthy and active, I think she will be around for a long time.
These two grannies are ROCK STARS!
Oh and although he is not a grandma at all, I also met with Dan from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). He is one of maybe three staff members nationally who work in the LGBT Rights & Recognition division of AFSC.
One of his tasks/goals is to set up meetings between conservative Evangelical Christians who are not yet embracing of LGBT folks with other Christians who are embracing. We talked about various strategies. I told him to consider blogging in that through the process of blogging, visiting other blogs, leaving comments, and quoting other bloggers on our blogs, we build community and foster dialog, especially when we visit blogs of people who have a different view on the issues than we do.
So Dan may be lurking right now. Once he gets a blog going, I’ll let you know.