Category: skin privilege

Black Lives Matter pre-March Worship in NYC and Arrests

This weekend my husband, Glen Retief, and I traveled to New York City, and with our host, Beth Reed, we had the privilege of attending the #BlackLivesMatter pre-March Worship service at Union Theological Seminary on Saturday 12/13/14. I found the service to be moving, revelatory, and well-structured. The speakers, the songs, the prayers, and the readings each kept adding and adding to the event–teaching, admonishing, and inspiring the audience.

The night before two students from the school, one Black and one White, were arrested. It is chilling to see the radical different ways the police treated these two protesters.

I have put up most of the audio from the service on SoundCloud page  including the singing. Here you can listen to the Opening Prayer by Ranwa Hammamy and the readings from Jeremiah 6:14,15, read by Carolyn Klassen, and Ephesians 6:10-13  (Now my pastor back in my Evangelical days at Times Square Church read the whole army of God passage regularly, but NEVER like Dean Yvette Wilson who interpreted it and gave it new, relevant life!)


I’m feeling tender today. Good thing that I am among Friends here. Peggy Parsons, the amazing motocyle-riding, Christ-centered Quaker minister and her family have put me up for the night here in Salem, OR. Peggy is the real deal pastoring a semi-programmed Quaker church, preaching wherever the doors open and working with trauma victims in Burundi–many of them Quakers.

Last night the brilliant Quaker artist (music, visual art, humor, you name it) Alivia Biko cooked us a killer vegan meal replete with vegan chocolate chip cookies. I felt loved. (BTW both Peggy and Alivia miss Joe G. Just saying in case he is lurking 🙂

Yeah, I am feeling tender as I soak up all of this love in Portland with Doug and Bruce and Bonnie and in Salem with Peggy and her family and Alivia.

This tour has been great in many ways but harder than most. Since the launch of bXg, Christine, Steve and I have received so many stories from people sharing their trauma from ex-gay experiences. I read some of these and start to cry. Lots of people have been hurt and allowed themselves to be hurt. It feels good to see people finding healing, but the process is painful for most.

Feeling tender about violence. Many of us unprogrammed Quakers know Virgina Tech, site of the recent deaths of 33 people, because we have had our annual gatherings there before. In 2005 I performed my Homo No Mo play there. Seeing the photos of the campus seemed so creepy having been in many of those places for worship and fellowship.

Feeling tender about Quakers and the rift that exists between many of us. Some Evangelical Quakers take issue with queer Quakers. Last week I read of a dreadful report of an Evangelical Friend condemning same-gender loving Quakers in the harshest terms. With lots of programmed Evangelical Friends Churches in Oregon, it feels strange knowing that perhaps because of my queerness, I might not/will not be welcome.

Feeling tender about some queer folks at a Quaker venue who took issue with my apperance, wondering how on earth I could still identify as a Christian after all that the Christian church and Exodus had done to me. The thought that I am gay man who identifies as Christian offended them deeply. I get this reaction at times from folks in the LGBT community, but it smarts extra hard when it comes from folks in a Quaker context. Among unprogrammed Quakers, I find I walk on eggshells when I talk about my faith in Jesus. Is that just me being over-sensative or does this reflect a serious issue within the Quaker movement?

Feeling tender about doing my show today, The Re-Education of George W. Bush. It is the most personal of all my plays, even more so than Homo No Mo. I appear in the play as myself three different times to talk about my mom–her life, her death and her wisdom. I also take on a bunch of issues close to my heart–the war in Iraq, skin privilege, the environment as well as oppression of LGBT people. I have not performed the play since January, so I will rehearse all afternoon.

Feeling tender about lots of things, which is often the life of an artist. Feeling grateful too for freshly baked vegan cookies and a big glass of rice milk over at Alivia’s house last night before bed. It wasn’t really the cookies, but the love behind them. I bet you have your own comfort foods that get to your heart too.

A Quaker Comic Minstrel Show–Not in my Town!

Something is terribly wrong is happening right now in the white gay community in Hartford, CT (where I live).

A white drag queen (who identifies, by the way as a Quaker Minister) is coming to Hartford in ‘blackface’ as a welfare mom with 17 children, calling herself Shirley Q. Liquor. And many (but not all) white gay men do not see a problem with this.

As a Quaker, as a white man, as a gay man, as a comic performer who plays many characters including Black women, I can say that this is wrong on so many levels. That the performer and the venue will not back down or listen to reason, reveals the arrogance and ignorance so often among privileged white gay men. We cry victim because of how we have been oppressed, yet we refuse to see the oppression of others and our own contribution to that oppression.

Local activists (mostly young people) have begun actions including a myspace page Ban Shirley Q. The local press has covered the story. And True Colors, an LGBTIQ organization for youth has organized an anti-racism show featuring Karen Williams. I will also attend at the event. The local Quakers are gathering to organize a response from the meeting. Shirley Q performs around the US, so even if you don’t live near Hartford, join the myspace page and stay aware and vocal.

Too often white gay men have sat back and contributed indirectly and directly to racism and the advancement of white skin privilege and the oppression of women. If we stand up and speak out something terribly good can happen in Hartford and beyond.