Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Good bones

I'm staying up late tonight, prepping for a procedure tomorrow morning. Those of you middle-agers know what I'm talking about. While I drink lots of fluids, I'm catching up on some TV, like one of my favorite shows, Madam Secretary. If you've never seen it, I highly recommend it! Tea Leoni and Tim Daly, a real-life couple, are the sexiest married 50+ couple on television.

The last episode was serious, addressing slut shaming and male complicity as well as human trafficking. After the secretary's team had a failed mission resulting in trafficked girls dying during a rescue attempt, combined with budget cuts to humanitarian efforts combined with increased defense spending (sound familiar?) one of Secretary McCoy's staff read an excerpt of this poem, "Good Bones" by Maggie Smith, who wrote it last year after the Pulse shooting.

PRI's the World named it as the official poem of 2016. I love it, and I find it perfect for this time in our world. I hope you like it too.

Good Bones
By Maggie Smith

Life is short, 
though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, 
and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. 
The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, 
and that’s a conservative estimate, 
though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, 
a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. 
Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, 
and for every kind stranger, 
there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. 
I am trying to sell them the world. 
Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, 
chirps on about good bones:
 This place could be beautiful, right? 
You could make this place beautiful.

Smith told The Washington Post, “I’m happy for the poem but not the circumstances of its popularity,” she says. “I wish I had written a poem that people share when babies are born or people get married.”

But she doesn't believe the poem is pessimistic. “I don’t think I could write a poem that the world is beyond repair,” she says. Even if the world may seem at times like a dilapidated house that only a fool would buy, it still “has good bones,” Smith says. “My hope is that the poem is a call to improve it anyway.”

My prayer is that our good bones sustain us and keep us strong through the hurricane to come.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 46: Leo Bancroft

Words from Leo's Good Friday reflection, here
I have reached the final day of my Lenten Challenge--woo hoo! As I was pondering which marginalized voice I should focus on today, I knew I wanted it to be someone I know. And then it occurred to me: of course, my friend Leo!

I've known Leo for several years, back to when he went by the name of Laura. We met through an interchurch Bible study called "Bras, Bibles, and Brew." Laura was one of many in the group who'd attended seminary, which resulted in me feeling less than Biblically literate at times! Immediately, I found Laura to be a fascinating, funny, and bright person, and we became Facebook friends.

Image may contain: 1 person, bird, outdoor and natureLaura got involved with the Cascade AIDS project and became a hugely successful and creative fundraiser and activist. I remember her kissing a chicken while wearing a fun maroon dress and boots, because she'd met her fundraising goals. (I found the photo on Facebook--it's on the right!). And she began a blog called "Just one of the boys...kinda," sharing her perspectives on LGBTQIA issues and the church, along with other spiritual reflections. I followed her blog regularly and occasionally we would cross paths in our Lutheran world.

Then in September 2013, Leo revealed in his blog that he identified as transgender:
At the end of March, I had the startling, frightening, and liberating realization that I just might be transgender.  That was the beginning of a journey of questioning that has brought me to this place now – where I want to share more publicly about who I am.
I now identify as transgender: more male than female, one of the guys, in my men’s clothes and men’s haircut. Over the years, there were several clues I gave myself before my moment of realization, even the title of this blog.
Please feel free to ask me any question that you like. I can’t speak for the whole transgender community, just as I can’t speak for all Lutherans or all Oregonians. I’m on a journey where I am still figuring out who I am, so there is a lot I am learning too. But I don’t want to do so in private any more.
Leo with his mom
Ever since that first reveal blog post, Leo has chronicled his spiritual and mental journey of becoming, regularly speaking and writing about his transgender experience in churches, synod gatherings, and conferences. In his followup post, he shared:
Life is not about knowing all the answers, or about finding out the end of the movie before it begins. I want to view life as an adventure! Thankfully this is not something we have to do alone. Many of you have expressed your willingness to come along on this adventure with me, even when it is mysterious or scary, and I do not take that for granted. I hope I am willing to go beside you in your adventure too.
And because this is a devotional blog at heart, I want to add that God is also always with us in this. No matter how dark or confusing life may seem, you are never alone. Sometimes that's hard to remember - I had it tattooed on my arm so I wouldn't forget. I am working on being ok with not knowing how things will turn out; I am working on trusting that God is always with me on this journey. No matter how dark or confusing life may seem, you are never alone. Sometimes that's hard to remember - I had it tattooed on my arm so I wouldn't forget. I am working on being ok with not knowing how things will turn out; I am working on trusting that God is always with me on this journey, no matter what. 
In 2014, Leo was elected to the Board of Directors for the Cascade AIDS Project, and he had an official naming service at the baptismal font and finally felt claimed as part of God's family. His chosen name, Leo Channing, means lion, fierce wolf, and church leader.

In 2015 Leo took on a new role with Reconciling Works, working to make churches more friendly and welcoming to the LGBTQIA community, gave his first radio interview, and began writing a regular monthly column about his transgender journey for PQ Monthly. His articles are deeply intimate and open, as he's taken a huge risk to be transparent in an effort to help others going through a similar journey...as well as to educate the rest of us about what it's like.
Leo visiting our church

Leo's come to preach at our church many times, like in early 2015 (read his homily here). He also spoke at our panel on the transgender experience with Jayce M., the student who filed a complaint against George Fox University for housing discrimination. Leo is a born storyteller and gifted preacher and bridge builder. I've learned so much about the transgender experience through his open heart and willingness to share his story.

In 2016 the Lutheran church in Oregon hired Leo to be an advocate for the LGBTQIA community, to listen to people’s stories and hear their experiences. And he has started a church in his living room, The Flame, which meets Sunday evenings at 6 p.m. He's on his way to becoming a pastor again, several years after being in seminary. (And he's still continuing his day job in IT support.)

I imagine that Leo is constantly traversing his two communities: one of faith and the LGBTQIA community, including many who mistrust or have been gravely hurt by the church. Leo bridges these two skillfully, facilitating communities of faith to walk in the AIDS Walk or Pride parades, and constantly sharing his own story of faith and becoming. I know his journey has not been easy, and he has not always been accepted and loved as he should be.

Oh yeah. And he's taken up trapeze! Look at those muscles!
Leo describes himself on his blog as a goofball who loves trapeze, a bisexual trans guy (just one part of his identity). And he is visible for those who can't be.

I can't think of a better person to profile on this final day of my Lenten journey, a hero advocating for true authenticity and a fuller understanding of transgender people for all, a role model, and someone who walks his talk and roars his roar for others who can't do so.

Leo, thank you for sharing your story and inspiring us all.

Read all my Lenten challenge posts here. I hope you've enjoyed this journey. I certainly have!

Happy Easter Eve!

Friday, April 14, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 45: Brenda Tracy

In my second-to-last Lenten post, I have a special story to share with you. The other evening I attended a women's activist meeting, where we were led to think about a critical story in our lives, how it contributed to our passion, and where it is leading us to use our energies now.

As I revealed to readers back in October, I was sexually assaulted as an adolescent, and I still bear the scars. I shared this information in my small group on Monday night, along with the epiphany that as a result, throughout my life I've been drawn to the company of women...and this assault was just one of my many life experiences (including childhood birth defects and multiple surgeries, bullying in junior high, travel abroad, and my recent health issues) that contribute to the theme in my life:
In fact, I think this would make a fine tattoo for my 55th birthday, don't you agree?

A woman in my small group suggested that perhaps my calling to activism should be connected to women, and in in fact it is already headed that way. And another woman in the group told me about Brenda Tracy.

In 1998, single mom Brenda Tracy was drugged and gang raped by four men, two of which played on the Oregon State University football team.* She reported the attack, but the district attorney never prosecuted the case. She endured death threats and backlash from a community that should have helped her. And the OSU football coach at the time, Mike Riley, defended his players in a newspaper, "These are really good guys who made a bad choice." As Tracy recalls, it felt like a branding iron searing through her flesh to her soul, a scar she would carry forever. Read her story here in the Oregonian.

Even though all of the accused admitted to some part in the gang rape, Tracy did not end up pressing charges...because she'd been victimized before, her boyfriend played on the OSU team, and she felt ashamed (rape culture). After the rape, she strongly considered suicide until the ER nurse, Jenenne Aguilar, who took care of her after the rape, inspired her to pursue a career in nursing. That fall, instead of killing herself, she entered nursing school and eventually also got her MBA.

Over the years she came to hate Mike Riley more than her rapist because she felt betrayed. In 2014, Tracy publicly came forward sharing her story, and releasing the shame she'd felt inside this whole time. Since then, Tracy has bravely met with Riley (who publicly apologized to her), spoke to his team in Nebraska, and built a strong relationship with him. (He recently nominated her for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.) Just this week Tracy returned to Nebraska and led an End Rape on Campus march.

When I began researching Tracy's case, I found this video interview with Tracy and her college athlete son, Darius Adams:

And then I found this letter by Darius, who is working to prevent NCAA from recruiting and allowing sexual offenders to play in college sports, and that's what made me cry. When he was headed down a troubled path at age 17 (in 2010), his mom shared the story of her rape with him for the first time, and it inspired him to turn his life around.

For so long, I too kept my story quiet and hidden, except from close friends and family. But when I decided to go public in my blog last October (inspired by Michelle Obama's speech after the Orange Monstrosity's sexual harassment history surfaced), I felt I needed to share my story with my two oldest sons in case they read it on my blog. With my voice shaking, I told them what happened to me and emphasized the importance of consent in their own relationships with women.

No woman should have to endure such humiliation and violence, much less have to tell her children about it. I'm grateful for people like Brenda Tracy and her son Darius for speaking out so vocally about what happened and working to mitigate rape culture in sports, college environments, and elsewhere. Now if we could just get it out of the White House!

Please sign their change.org petition to the NCAA, asking to create a policy that bans violent athletes.

Read all my Lenten challenge posts here

*In 2014, OSU re-investigated the case, publicly apologized to Tracy, and began an extensive effort to expand and improve its programs to prevent sexual violence and serve survivors of sexual assault. OSU’s ambitious initiative was recently recognized by national media as one of the most progressive in the nation. The university extended the OSU Student Conduct Code to behavior that occurs off-campus. It joined the national “It’s On US” campaign, and launched the Alcohol, Drug and Violence Prevention Center. OSU now requires online courses to combat alcohol abuse and sexual assault, requires all incoming students to take a sexual violence prevention course, and has opened the OSU Survivor Advocacy and Resource Center. Tracy spoke at the opening of that center, which will provide confidential services for sexual assault survivors, help them navigate campus and community programs, and provide access as needed to sexual assault nurses.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 44: Jonathan Leggette

Did you know that approximately 1.7 percent of babies are born with atypical genitalia? And many others are born with subtler forms of sex anatomy variations, some of which won’t show up until later in life. That means that more babies are born with intersex characteristics than cystic fibrosis, Jewish, or red hair. “Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. Intersex is the "I" in LGBTQIA. But many people are unaware that intersexed people exist.

The first time I became aware of this issue, beyond reading about the marginalized Hijras (third sex) in India, was when a friend's sister's baby was born without specific male or female genitalia in the 1990s. Historically and still in this day and age, doctors have advised parents of intersexed babies to choose a gender and elect gender reassignment surgery for the baby. But of course, choosing a gender randomly often results in gender dysphoria later on if the parents choose incorrectly. Now as more doctors learn about intersex, and more of the public become aware, more wise parents are waiting to allow the child to discover their own gender identity (as my friend's sister decided to do). Often people do not find out they are intersex until they are children, and many are encouraged to have gender assignment surgery without being given the option of waiting or declining the surgery.

Jonathan Leggette, from Seattle, WA, defines himself as black, queer, and intersex, using the pronouns he/him/his. He attends Evergreen State College in Washington and has become an advocate for intersex rights and awareness. In Jonathan's words, from an interview he gave to the college's Cooper Point Journal:
I am an InterAct Youth Member. InterAct Youth is a group of intersex advocates in their teens and twenties working to raise intersex awareness and create change...The organization allows for youth to get together and discuss topics ranging from intersex rights to everyday experiences.
Jonathan recently attended the Creating Change Conference and was on an Intersex Youth Panel with four other intersex people.
This experience was truly life changing and empowering for me to become a more outward intersex advocate and truly started to accept the intersex piece of my identity. I finally found a group of people that understand pieces of my story without me having to explain myself every sentence.
When asked what he would like the general population to understand about what it means to be intersex, he responded:
"Being intersex and trans happens, yet they are not synonyms for each other! Being trans is a gender identity and intersex has to do with biological sex.
...The most basic question is what is intersex. And that is something I am always willing to define. For example a good definition...is that intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads, and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations.
There is just no visibility around the intersex topic at all. It is crazy even many people in the LGBTQIA community don’t know what the definition of intersex is or how frequent it is."
In 2016, Buzzfeed announced results of a comprehensive survey conducted with intersex Australians, which found high rates of suicide and poverty, along with a lack of information around invasive surgeries intended to “fix” ambiguous sex characteristics. Nineteen percent of the survey respondents said they'd considered suicide, and they have a much higher likelihood of dropping out of school. The survey also found that peer support is critical.

That's why what Jonathan is doing is so critical. Not only is he seeking and receiving peer support from his community, but he is also being an inspiration and lifeline for others. Let's educate ourselves about what intersex people face, battle the stigmas, and celebrate their resiliency and uniqueness. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @johnny_boy24.

Read all my Lenten challenge posts here

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 43: Roy DeLeon

Here I am with my friend Roy, who I ran into on the streets of Victoria BC last summer. Serendipity (defined as "luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for)! Roy used to work with me until he retired in 2015. I still haven't quite recovered from his departure as he has left a hole in my work life. He was my creative hive mind in one. Any time I needed out-of-the-box brainstorming ideas, Roy would be the first one I'd call. I wrote about my history with Roy back when he retired in 2015. I think of him as my Zen Catholic friend.

Today I wanted to feature Roy because he is a naturalized immigrant from the Philippines, so his home country and his adopted country are both in turmoil right now. I remember speaking to Roy before the election in the Philippines and hearing his fear about the potential election of the brutal Duterte. At the time neither of us thought that Trump would be elected. Sadly, both countries find themselves in a scary mess for different reasons.

Roy has been chronicling his thoughts and feelings in art for many years, and a few years ago he began sharing his painted vignettes from visits to Starbucks on Facebook. Many of these paintings were accompanied by beautiful words as well, like this one: 
The boy raised his arms looking at mom.
Mom obliged and carried him on her hip.
Then the boy stuck his hand into his mom's hood
 as if he's reaching for and looking for something.

"The heart of a mother is a deep abyss
 at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness."
~Honoré de Balzac
It doesn't have to be Mother's Day to give thanks to our mothers and all the mothers we meet.
Or this one:
Starbucks People -
He was sitting in the comfy chair by the entrance since I came in.
After about 5 minutes of me waiting for a sketch subject,
he stood up and walked to order a drink.
 In line, he looked back to his seat to check that no one takes it.

No one did because he left his jacket on the chair.
Looking back at my day today,
What was pleasant?
Who can I thank for it?
What was unpleasant?
What did I learn about myself from that event?
Since the election, Roy has particularly focused his painting and sketching on those in the margins, like refugees and immigrants. He is a man of pure hospitality and kindness and makes friends wherever he goes. 
Lent 2017
At the Religious Ed Congress in Anaheim, CA, a friend introduced me to this
 young, petite Philipina liturgical dancer from New York.
She danced with my friend during one of the masses.
She was bummed that day 'cause she lost her driver's license.
 Her passport though was being FedEx'd by mom so she can fly back home.

Back home, she works in the financial sector,
but dreams of
 leaving that 9-to-5er to just dance and do what she loves the most.
Hearing and seeing her exuberance and determination, she'll get there sooner.
She's the daughter of immigrants from the Philippines.
"Today I have set before you
Life and death,
Blessing and curse.
Choose life."
~ God to Moses
Sometimes his sketches or portraits are of famous images or people:

As I drew this from a photo by the WPA photographer Dorothea Lange during the depression in 1938,
I felt the hot Texas sun on this lady's skin and bones in her tattered dress and pained expression.
I felt the suffering, the injustice, the violence of the widening divide between the haves and the have nots.
Sketching can be a powerful tool for meditation on compassion and lovingkindness.
"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor,
it cannot save the few who are rich."
~ John F. Kennedy
May we help in anyway we can. Like the panhandler's sign says: Anything helps.
Evening Drawing-Meditation:
"This is YOUR beloved child -
With whom I am well pleased.
Listen to them."
(Reference photo from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37116349
showing 5-yr old Omran Daqneesh after he was rescued from a destroyed building after an air strike in Aleppo.)
And other times they are just people he sees on his journey:
As soon as I saw this South Asian mother and child crossing the Bothell Bridge,
it reminded me of migrants and refugees trying to get to a bridge leading to freedom from political persecution,
from violence, hunger and poverty, due to their government's corruption and war. 

And on the domestic front, those who are looking for affordable health and dental care,
employment, affordable housing, or c
ompassionate and safe space for the night.
"When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself,
for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." ~ Leviticus
May every being's night be relaxing and sleep restorative.

Roy is taking a Facebook break during Holy Week, but I'm sure he's still sketching and painting! He has garnered a strong following on his Facebook page. as many of us are inspired by his art and words. We should all be this productive, compassionate, and loving in retirement! 

I feel extremely fortunate to know this compassionate and loving artist and writer. Roy, in his own image and words:

"What is this precious love and laughter
Budding in our hearts?
It is the glorious sound
Of a soul waking up!"
- from 'I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of Hafiz' by Daniel Ladinsky.
That's me practicing the throw-the-head-back laughter.
It tones the neck and hopefully firms the double chin.
 It's also the counterpose to text-neck. And you feel silly good as heck.
And a few other random Roy artworks at the end of this post. 

Read all my Lenten challenge posts here

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 42: Brigadier General Nagwa Al-Haggar

So I'm 42 days into Lent and nearing the end, and I've finally discovered it makes more sense to veer off AMMPARO Bible verses instead of trying to force-fit them into my own personal crazy "voices on the margins" Lenten challenge! So today I'm choosing a verse from the Quran, which seems to fit far better than the Hebrew scriptures.

Have you heard about Brigadier General Nagwa Al-Haggar? During the terrorist attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt on Palm Sunday, police officer Al-Haggar died in the line of duty when she rushed to the aid of her male colleagues to prevent a suicide bomber from entering the Church of St. Mark’s in Alexandria. The attacker detonated his bomb, killing at least 44 people died, including seven police officers (two other females: police sergeants Asmaa Hussein and Omneya Roshdy), and injuring more than 100. These three women may be the first female officers in Egypt’s police force to be killed in the line of duty.

Al-Haggar was inspecting people entering the church to maintain the security of worshipers arriving on Palm Sunday when she saw Major Al-Rakaybi and other officers struggling with a man trying to break into the church. Al-Haggar ran to assist when the terrorist detonated his bomb, killing all Al-Haggar, Al-Rakaybi, and other officers. Al-Haggar did not back down when she became aware of the danger.

Al-Haggar is just one of many Muslim women shattering stereotypes throughout history, going back to the first wife of Muhammad, Khadīja b. Khuwaylid. When they married, he was 25 and she was 40, and she was a successful merchant and one of the elite figures of Mecca. She played a central role in supporting and propagating Islam and was the first Muslim. In fact, I would venture to say that Islam has far more stories of strong women in its history than Christianity does.

Al-Haggar was protecting Christians' rights to worship and pray when she died, so she was an interfaith hero. “I say to our Coptic Christian brothers and sisters. Do not be sad,” her nephew Islam Fathi said. “Muslims and Christians are one. It’s not about Muslim attacking Christians. No. My aunt was a Muslim. She was a believer...She was protecting Christians who were also praying in the church.”

One of the things I've loved about my Lenten practice is learning about many Muslim badasses like Al-Haggar, Linda Sarsour, African Muslim writers, Mohamed Bezeek, Muslims standing up for justice in London, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Ilhan Omar, and Rabi'a Keeble.

Read all my Lenten challenge posts here

Monday, April 10, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 41: Dortha Biggs

Today I'm writing about a personal gray area, because I have a personal investment in this issue, twice over.

I want to share the voice of Dortha Biggs, who has a 48-year-old, multiply disabled daughter. Biggs contracted rubella (German measles) when she was just 2-1/2 weeks pregnant. When her daughter Lesli was eight years old, she sued her doctor for failing to diagnose the rubella, because if she'd known she had it, she would have had an abortion. On February 19, 1975, the Texas Supreme Court ruled, in front of an audience of 60 women who had shown up to support the case, that a woman could sue her doctor for a "wrongful birth." Now Biggs has come into the spotlight again.

A Texas state senator (Brandon Creighton) has introduced a bill that would ban such lawsuits, overturning the precedent Biggs helped set. He also invoked her case, saying wrongful birth lawsuits promote abortion. Biggs is outraged, because neither Creighton nor any other politician has reached out to her or asked about Lesli, who has suffered pain, discomfort, and extremely low quality of life all her life. Biggs dedicated her life to special needs children for more than 30 years, did her master's thesis on rubella and its devastating effects on pregnancy, and continues to be tormented by what has happened to her and her daughter. "I would have given anything to have never been born," she says. "Because had I not been born, she would not have been born and suffered this." She wishes she could have terminated her pregnancy, had she known the risks she was facing. Lesli is blind and deaf and has cerebral palsy, allergies, seizure disorder, and autism. Her annual care costs $200,000, mostly covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

Here's how I am personally invested in this case:
  • My mom had rubella when she was pregnant with me, but she was aware of the risks. When I was born with a cleft lip and palate, along with a club foot, the doctor would not show me to her at first because he wanted to warn her...but I'm sure he didn't expect her delighted response. She tells me that she was just so grateful that my birth defects could be repaired. My eyes fill up knowing that as an "unperfect" baby, my parents welcomed me into the world unconditionally and full of love. They had to see me go through multiple surgeries and hospital stays as a baby and child, in addition to having to force a screaming toddler to either insert or remove a speech appliance from her mouth (which I thought was an instrument of torture!). When we had our own medically fragile child, I had an ever greater sense of gratitude and empathy for what my parents must have gone through.
  • My oldest son was born at 24 weeks gestation, just on the verge of viability. I also had an unplanned pregnancy at the risky age of 41. But as I wrote in February 2011, I'm avidly pro-choice and I also support parental consent for life-saving resuscitation measures of extremely premature babies. In our case, first we decided we wanted life-saving measures because we held tight to hope that our son would survive. Then later we chose not to have amniocentesis when I was 38 and 41 so we could avoid the risks of premature birth or late-stage miscarriage, but also because we trusted in whatever would happen.
So as you can see, I might be an unusual advocate for parental consent and decision making. I cannot walk in Dortha Biggs' shoes, so I support her right to sue for wrongful birth and I also support a woman's right to choose to terminate her pregnancy, even though I did not make that same choice. As Biggs said,
"I have stood over her bed for hundreds of nights watching her suffering. If you have not experienced this heartbreak, you have no right to judge...I could never have said I want her to experience this -- just to be born. Anyone who would say they thought that was the right thing to do has not stood and watched a child suffer like this."
Biggs points out the irony that the first thing Republican politicians begin slashing is money for programs serving those with special needs or mentally ill. She says they care only when a child is in the womb, not after. "They don't love my daughter. They don't know my daughter," she says.

My heart is with Dortha Biggs and her daughter Lesli, and for all those who advocate for disability rights and medical ethics.

Read more of my "I Was a Stranger" entries here.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Day 40: Badass Women Protesting

The women are rising up! Have you noticed that the people most active in the resistance are women? It's not just the record-setting women's marches across the globe. Pantsuit Nation and countless other activist groups began the day after the election and now they are everywhere, especially on social media but also in living rooms and other meeting spaces.

DailyAction.org recently polled their active civic engagement users, receiving 28,320 responses, and the results were telling: 86% of respondents who are taking daily actions like contacting politicians were women, and 77% said they were likely to publicly protest an administrative policy in the future. In addition, 50% of those women were aged 46-65.

Sadly, white women failed to elect Hillary, either by not voting,  or worse: voting against their and their daughters' own interests by electing the fake tan oligarch. So it's fitting that white women are taking to the streets and writing letters, sending postcards, facilitating and attending workshops, community organizing and building, and standing up for those on the margins. It's on us! I belong to several local organizing and activism groups and have met some fascinating people through the resistance. I've also learned a great deal about how to be a co-conspirator, as NAACP president Jo Ann Hardesty puts it.

I truly can't keep quiet with the destruction going on in our midst. I have always felt compelled to speak up for what I believe in, but now more than ever. Doing something is good for my soul, and honestly it's the only hope we have right now to stem the tide and turn things around. Just as I've hardly ever used the "angry" emoji on Facebook until the election, I've also rarely called my congresspeople or sent emails--or attended a local organizing group--until now. I must speak up and raise the voices that need elevation. From conversations I've had with women friends--and also in my own home--although we women activists have supportive husbands, men do not seem to feel as compelled to resist or get involved. I'm not sure why.

Yesterday I joined my voice with hundreds of others around the world in #icantkeepquiet day. "I Can't Keep Quiet" is the anthem of the Women's March, and its composer MILCK urged women everywhere to sing the song in public places everywhere in resistance. I've joined the Badass
Women's Protest Choir, which grew out of a secret Facebook activism group (Badass Women PDX) and a vocal instructor/yoga teacher's desire to begin a protest choir.

I attended a rehearsal with 60+ other women last Sunday, where I was delighted to meet in person a few other online activists who I've been working with on Action Together Oregon and Pantsuit Nation Oregon! I wasn't sure if I could make it through the song without crying. But it wasn't until the Raging Grannies began to put our words into dance that the tears started flowing.

Within a few days, a team of us had created a choir Facebook group with 169 members, a press release, a public-facing Facebook page with 161 likes, and a mission statement. One of the volunteers blanketed the media with the press release, so we had TV coverage from two stations (see the KGW News at around minute 9, including a quick shot of me!) and an article in the Willamette Week before the event. The choir plans to sing at other events in the city (including Tax Day and March for Science) and continue to learn new songs for our repertoire. It feels so great to raise our voices together, united, in song! Thanks to the fake tan oligarch, I've met so many wonderful liberals!

Take a look at our performance below (thanks to Jeanine Flaton-Buckley for taking the video!). This Facebook live video (taken by Cameron Whitten) shows a much more thorough look, including both performances in Pioneer Square and Pioneer Place, and the protest chants in between.

With our Muslim, African-American, Latino, LGBTQ, and other friends; the disabled community; low-income people; refugees and immigrants; and other marginalized groups facing great risks and danger, and with the earth poised at the brink of climate collapse, HOW CAN WE KEEP QUIET? They are urging us to keep connected and keep resisting. I wish more men would join us!

Read more of my "I Was a Stranger" entries here.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 39: Claire Wineland

Claire Wineland is a young woman afflicted by cystic fibrosis, which causes excess mucus buildup in her organs. Eventually they will shut down. She's had more than 30 surgeries, lung failure, and years in the hospital. But she is not wasting what's left of her life!

She is upbeat, positive, and funny, and she dedicates her life to helping others with terminal illness to live their life to the fullest.
“I’m here to shed some light on what it’s really like to be sick, and hopefully to change the way we view illness and those living with it. I don’t think that life is black and white, we can’t see everything that’s abnormal and strange as being bad. My life expectancy isn’t necessarily impressive. Yet I have had a wonderful life; I have lived a life I’m proud of.”
A published author, public speaker, founder of a foundation to help others with cystic fibrosis, a blogger and a vlogger, this dynamic and passionate young woman writes and speaks via her website The Clairity Project, offering strength and hope to those going through a similar situation.

Here is Claire on Dying 101:

Her other topics include The Upside of Being Sick, Tips on Interacting with a Sick Person, How the Oxygen Tube Works, Perks of Going to the Hospital, and What It's Like to Be in a Coma. She is normalizing what it's like to be sick and have a terminal illness. She is amazing!

Read more of my "I Was a Stranger" entries here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 38: Rabi’a Keeble

You might have noticed a theme in my Lenten posts...not only do I want to give a voice to those on the margins, but I am also a big fan of interfaith movements and disparate beliefs coming together to unite on issues.

That's why I was excited to learn about Rabi'a Keeble, who has founded Qal’bu Maryam, a women's mosque, where everyone is welcome: new converts, reverts, born Muslims of all backgrounds (Shia, Sunni, Sufi, Nation of Islam, Ahmadi, Bohri, Ismaili, etc.), immigrants, black, white, brown, and all genders. Women sit in front, give the sermon, and say the prayers; genders are not divided; everyone is welcome; and everyone prays together.

As stated on the mosque website,
"Qal'bu Maryam, or Maryam's Heart, is named in honor of Mary, mother of Jesus (Isa), Peace and Blessings to them, and is a fitting name for a Mosque starting in a church which holds dear, and recognizes the sistership between us and our Christian and Jewish allies."
Of course it's in Berkeley! After being housed for a while in a United Church of Christ church, the mosque is now hosted at the Starr King School of the Ministry, a multi-religious seminary where Keeble received her master’s degree in religious leadership and social justice.

I love this message on the mosque's "Worship" page:
You Are Respected Here
At Qal’bu Maryam we believe that worship is based on what issues from the heart, more so than the mouth. We will adhere to Islamic norms and conduct for prayer. However, sticking with a social justice model, we will not give preferential treatment to men in seating, teaching, or in any other way. All engagement will flow from individual desire to be part of a community and to learn and contribute. We will lift up our Islamic matriarchs, and teach about their contributions to Islam, as well as contemporary Muslim women who are scholars and leaders in the world. We will also teach women those skills to  conduct Jumu'ah prayer wherever they are and whenever it's needed. 
The Huffington Post reports that although women’s mosques are in the minority, they’re not unprecedented. “Women’s mosques exist in at least a dozen countries around the world, including China, Syria, India, Egypt, Palestine, and even ultra-conservative countries like Yemen, Women’s Mosque of America founder M. Hasna Maznavi pointed out in a 2015 HuffPost blog. There’s a long history of women serving as imams in China, where the oldest surviving women’s mosque dates back to 1820.

Keeble especially hopes to give a voice to Muslim women of color, including a broad spectrum of racial and ethnic backgrounds. “Women need to be empowered to do what they’re called to do,” Keeble said. “If your calling is to be an imam, come try it out. Come study, and no one is going to tell you that because you’re female you can’t do it.”

Have a long life, peace be to you, and peace to be your mosque, and peace be to all that you have. Peace Salaam Shalom.

Read more of my "I Was a Stranger" entries here.