Monthly Archives: November 2012

One day is there of the series


One day is there of the series

Emily Dickinson

One day is there of the series
Termed “Thanksgiving Day”
Celebrated part at table
Part in memory –
Neither Ancestor nor Urchin
I review the Play –
Seems it to my Hooded thinking
Reflex Holiday
Had There been no sharp subtraction
From the early Sum –         
Not an acre or a Caption
Where was once a Room
Not a mention whose small Pebble
Wrinkled any Sea,
Unto such, were such Assembly,         
‘Twere “Thanksgiving day” –

Gay Pilgrims

PLYMOUTH – In the summer of 1637, two working men at the English colony at Plymouth faced the possibility of execution, convicted of what the law books said was a grave moral crime.

gaypilgrimsGay Pilgrims would have never looked this happy.

John Alexander and Thomas Roberts had been caught in a homosexual relationship.

Court records from their case, and from a handful of others, are the only keyhole through which researchers at the Plimoth Plantation museum can peek backward through time to imagine the lives of the colony’s gays and lesbians.

On this date in 1637, John Alexander and Thomas Roberts were changed with and convicted of “lude behavior and unclean carriage one with another, by often spending their seed one upon another, which was proved both by witness and their own confession; the said Alexander found to have been formerly notoriously guilty that way, and seeking to allure others thereunto.”

John Alexander was sentenced to a severe whipping, then to be burned in the shoulder with a hot iron, and then to be permanently banished from the Colony.

Roberts was sentenced to a severe whipping, but was not banished. He was prohibited from ever owning any land within the Plymouth Colony “except he manifest better desert.” He was returned to his master and forbidden to hold any lands in the future.

Sodomy, usually homosexuality, was considered a capital offence but rarely punished as such. These punishments, while harsh, still lacked the full force of the law.

At the Out at Plimoth Plantation event, the living museum of Colonial and Native American history presents special programs on gay history of the 17th and 18th centuries in early American culture.
“Plimoth Plantation as a museum has always been a place that has tried to recover every life,’’ said Richard Pickering, the museum’s deputy director. Pickering quoted the poet and author Paul Monette, who wrote that most of gay history “lies in shallow bachelors’ graves.’’

“We’re telling the audience that we’re going to talk about all those uncles and all those aunts who have fallen off the family tree,’’ said Pickering. “Their stories may be lost, so let’s contemplate those lost lives.’’ Though the historical record is sparse, “we can get a sense of what the options of the past were,’’ and provide some sense of history to a modern gay community “that really doesn’t have a strong sense of its past much before 1960.’’

Back in the 1600s, homosexuality was thought to be a behavior that could be learned due to a lack of “proper’’ examples of traditional relationships, said Pickering. Being gay or lesbian at the time was not a sexual identity as we think of it today. Gays and lesbians “did not have the opportunity to pursue the kind of lives and identities that modern social structures allow,’’ he said.
Yet the prosecution of Alexander and Roberts for homosexual conduct reveals layers of complexities in Colonial life, despite the scant court records. Though the maximum penalty was death, neither man was executed.

Alexander, who was perceived as the seducer and therefore was considered more responsible, was branded with a hot iron and banished from the colony, said Pickering.
Roberts was allowed to stay, though the court forbade him from owning land or participating in the political process, Pickering said.

“At first glance you would think that 17th-century New Englanders would be very harsh,’’ said Pickering. But both men were spared execution, and in time Roberts was allowed to own land and to vote. “Even though there are statutes, in the enactment of the law they are much more gentle.’’ It may have been that the colony needed every pair of hands and couldn’t afford to lose both workers, or that in a tiny community of a few hundred, the judges would have known the defendants personally and were reluctant to send neighbors to their deaths.

Plimoth Plantation began researching the gay history of the colony about 10 years ago, in preparation for bringing its replica of the Pilgrim ship Mayflower to gay-friendly Provincetown.

The role players at Plimoth Plantation wear period costumes and never come out of character while they’re on the job. In a recent interview, for example, Pickering had to leave the “village’’ for a private room to speak as a modern man. In that spirit of authenticity, the museum researched gay Colonial history to educate its staff in case one of the role players got a question about same-sex relationships while in Provincetown.

The museum last year presented that research to visitors at its first Out at Plimoth Plantation, a conscious effort to reach out to the gay community. “For a while the museum just assumed it was known that everyone was welcome here,’’ said spokeswoman Jennifer Monac. “History is everybody’s story. We realize we need to make it relevant for everybody.

“We wanted to create a day where same-sex couples could attend like any other family and not have to worry if they hold hands or show affection,’’ she said.

The museum’s website is www.plimoth.org.


God’s Good Purposes

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”
So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” 
Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Genesis 50:15-21

We can learn so much from what Joseph tells his brothers in the passage above.  As members of the LGBT community, we often have people who “mean evil against us.” However, we must remember that God has a plan and a purpose for us.  We cannot lose faith, we must persevere as Joseph did.
If you are not familiar with the story of Joseph, here is a quick synopsis:

In the Old Testament, the son of the patriarch Jacob and his wife, Rachel. He was favored by his father, and his brothers became bitterly jealous when he was given a resplendent coat of many colors (literally, coat with flowing sleeves). They sold him into slavery in Egypt, telling Jacob he had been killed by a wild beast. In Egypt Joseph gained favor with the pharaoh and rose to high office, owing to his ability to interpret dreams, and his acquisition of grain supplies enabled Egypt to withstand a famine. When famine forced Jacob to send his sons to Egypt to buy grain, the family was reconciled with Joseph and settled there.

Joseph is unwilling to take vengeance where God has shown mercy. His own deep faith and his own experience of God’s grace move him to forgive the past and build for the future. Not only does he forgive, but he promise to provide for and protect his repentant brothers and their families.

And it is what God would have for us too. A faith that looks not to the hurts and the wrongs that others have caused us, but to the grace and mercy God shows even in the midst of such wrongs. A faith that stands gratefully in the place of God to receive God’s gifts and live a life of forgiveness through service! A faith that is able to see the Lord’s mercy and grace at work even through the most evil of circumstances and trust that God will turn evil to good for those who love and trust in Him.
The lawyer may says “Let justice be done though the world perish.” A theologian says “Let sin be forgiven and the world be saved, for justice is not done, but sin is always done.” If the great, sublime article called the forgiveness of sins is correctly understood, it makes one a genuine Christian and gives one eternal life. This is the very reason why it must be taught in Christendom without unflagging diligence and without ceasing, so that people may learn to understand it clearly, and discriminatingly. For to do so is the one, supreme, and most difficult task of Christians. To do so is to understand the place of God – the work of God – the promise of God.
We sin every day, and we are also sinned against every day.  When someone who has wronged us asks for our forgiveness, you and I have the unique privilege to reflect the love of God into their hearts and minds.  

“I forgive you.”  Sometimes I think that phrase is even harder to say than, “I’m sorry.”  But that little phrase is packed with Christian power.  It’s packed with the power of Jesus’ blood that washes away a lifetime of guilt.  It’s packed with the power of God’s Word that makes it as valid as if God himself announced his forgiveness with a thundering voice from heaven.  You know how much those words mean to you.  Let’s share those words with the people in our lives who need to learn how much it means for them! 

Moment of Zen: Just Beauty


Portrait Of A Drag Queen

Next Magazine Survey Provides Insight Into The Personal Lives Of Drag Queens
While drag queens have made their way into the mainstream with TV shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” there is still much that is unknown about the world of drag.
Fortunately, our friends over at Next Magazine surveyed 60 drag queens in order to cut through the many stereotypes and pinpoint the characteristics of the average queen.
According to the poll, 55 percent of drag queens currently perform in a nightclub, bar or cabaret, with the majority receiving $51 to $200 per appearance. Their look of choice ranges from glamorous to vintage, but most queens surveyed have any overwhelming variety of outfits — the average closet contains 79 different ensembles.
Not surprisingly, 73 percent of queens said drag has changed for the better in the past 10 years, with the majority naming RuPaul as the most important drag queen of all time.

Is it time to dump the term openly gay?


I’m not for sure that it’s not nearing a time when we should ditch the phrase “openly gay,” and in fact stop referring to sexual orientation altogether when we’re talking about politicians and public figures.

Why is it relevant? What do we get out of knowing whether a candidate is gay or straight? Yet “openly gay” is a ubiquitous tag line. The media carefully use “openly” to signal they are not outing someone, deliberately or inadvertently.

Homophobia is still out there, in lame jokes, in both urban and rural settings, and in communities across a broad ethnic and religious spectrum and in political campaigns where it flares up in nasty ways. In fact, there may be a danger that no longer referring to a public person as “openly gay” could create an unwelcome return to the closet.

Most gay public figures are well aware of the pressure on them from within the LGBT community to be “out” role models who can offer comfort and reassurance to young people worried about coming out or even just appearing to be gay.

Last summer, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper publicly came out, at 45, stating, “In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted.”

Knowing a public figure is gay can add to their lustre — it takes courage to be out in a predominantly straight world.  Yet the millennial generation, which will one day rule this world (so be nice to them), is quickly moving beyond noting or caring about gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity, differences that their parents can’t resist mentioning in casual conversation. Mom and Dad, your kids don’t really give a damn if your stockbroker is gay, unless they are taught to hate and look at such matters.

In politics and in life, which can still remain two separate entities, the more people come into contact with someone who is gay — in their families, at work or socially — the less they “otherize” them.
Even in the American heartland, long-held prejudices fanned by the religious right are melting away. In last week’s election, gay marriage initiatives passed in several states (although it’s still constitutionally banned in 31) and Wisconsin voters elected Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay senator.

I loved her line when asked if she thought her presence in that august chamber would make a difference to gay rights: “If you’re not in the room they talk about you, if you’re in the room, they talk with you.”

So is it still fair to proclaim someone is “openly gay?”  How important is a label?  Because of where I live and work, it is easier for me to make it a non-issue.  Some people think I am gay, some don’t, but for my students, it’s actually a non-issue.  It is not something I will discuss with them, now will I confirm whether I am or not, but kids are smarter than we think they are.

I do believe that we are not quite there where we will stop saying “openly gay,” and that is because we do still need some openly gay role models.  People need to see that we are essentially no different from them. We just happen to have an attraction to someone of the same sex.  To which I say, “So what?”


Sick

I was sick yesterday and still not feeling well today. I think it is a stomach virus. Anyway, I went home yesterday and went to bed. I have not had time nor have I felt like doing a post today. Sorry.


Reasons to Survive November

Reasons to Survive November

November like a train wreck—
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.

The sky is a thick, cold gauze—
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.

—Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.

I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
                in a room by myself

with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
          like a disconnected phone.

But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,

and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over

and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.

Reasons to Survive November,” Tony Hoagland, from What Narcissism Means to Me (Graywolf Press).
 

Southern Tall-Tales

Southerners love tall tales, the taller and crazier the better. If you hear somebody say, “Now, this is a true story …,” you might as well go ahead and sit down and get comfortable. Whether it’s exaggeration or downright lies, it’s fun to listen to storytellers. Southerners are the best, mostly due to the insane real life events all around here that are better than fiction. You can’t make this stuff up.  There was a historian once who said that one of the reasons that southerners were so crazy was the heat and humidity.  He believed it drove us all insane.  There might be some validity to this argument.  Whatever the reason, we love to tell stories, and we often exaggerate a little in our stories.  If you ever hear a southerner tell the same story more than once, the exaggerations will always get bigger, especially if it is a funny story, because it just makes the punchline even better.

Two of the best storytellers I have ever heard were Kathryn Tucker Windham and Lewis Grizzard, both of whom have now passed away.  Each could tell a tale and have you rolling in the floor, especially Grizzard.  Windham just loved to collect tall-tales and ghost stories.  My granddaddy was another who loved to tell tall-tales.  I will tell two of the stories he used to love to tell.

The first one, the shortest one, involved a rattlesnake that once bit him.  He swore that the rattlesnake bit him and then rolled over and died.  My granddaddy claimed he was just that mean, and some would agree with him on that, but he was always very kind to me.  The truth of that story is that the bite nearly killed my grandfather, but whatever happened to the snake, we will never know.

The other story was about a swamp that was about a mile from his house.  He always told the story of the him and his brother going hunting in the swamp.  All of a sudden they heard this loud noise and thought it must be a helicopter, but then trees began to fall.  He said before they new it, whatever it was got closer.  When it got close enough for them to see, they realized that it was the biggest mosquito they had ever seen.  His point was always that the mosquitoes around that swamp were huge, but it was always fun hearing him tell his stories.

I think most southerners tend to exaggerate a bit, some more than others, when we tell stories, I know I do.  You know what, it makes life more interesting that way.

What’s the biggest tall-tale you have ever heard?  Do other parts of the country tend to exaggerate as much as southerners do?


Proverbs And Words, Part II

Last week, we looked at how the book of Proverbs deals with our propensity to talk.  I suggested taking some time to be quiet and listen to others instead of talking.  Did you do it?

If not, you’re not alone.  It’s so easy to fall into our old habits, worrying more about our own opinions and thoughts than about others’.  Keep making an effort, though; this is important stuff.

If you did do it, did you notice any differences in the way people responded to you?  Most people relish the chance to be heard, so when you make that space by shutting up and showing interest in others, you gain the chance to be influential in their lives.  You demonstrate the love of God, who always takes time to show interest in us – even though there’s absolutely nothing we have to say that God doesn’t already know!

This week, let’s take it one step further.  What about when you’re in dialogue with someone, and they say something that you really disagree with?  It might be anything from a conversation with your parents to a debate on the recent election  The point is, someone says something you know is wrong – maybe even a direct criticism against you.  How should you respond?
Here’s what Proverbs says:
Proverbs 12:15
The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 18:2

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.
“But these aren’t just my opinions!” you say.  “They’re the truth!”  And of course that’s just what the fool says as well, isn’t it?

Notice – the difference between the wise and the foolish is that the fool wants to get his opinions out there, but he (or she) gains no pleasure from “understanding.”  Understanding what?  Why, the other points of view, of course.  By contrast, wise people also want to have their views heard, but not until after making sure they have fully understood the other person.  The wise person listens first.  And once the fool is convinced that the wise person has understood the fool’s point of view, then he or she will be much more open to listening to the (now much more informed) position of the wise.

Behaving this way takes humility and discipline.  It’s not easy to sit there quietly listening when you’re just dying to show the other person why they’re wrong.  It’s even more difficult to spend that time focusing on understanding the other person rather than trying to think of all the arguments you want to use against them.

It’s easy to think, in the midst of all this listening and patience, that you’re wasting your time when you should be correcting the other person – maybe they’re spouting false doctrine, and you need to stand up for what’s right.  But that’s exactly when you must use patience as a weapon for the Truth.  Proverbs says:
Proverbs 25:15 
Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.

Proverbs 16:32

Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

Proverbs 14:29

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.
Patience is powerful.  In arguments and debates, we so easily fall into the trap of thinking that being louder and more forceful gives us an advantage, but how often have you ever “won over” the other side by arguing with them?

If your goal is to change someone’s mind, patience and gentleness are the most effective weapons to do it.  Be kind, stop talking and listen whenever the other person has something to say, and if you must, sit there for hours until they’re done ranting.  Once they have nothing left to say and you’ve heard and understood it all, you’ve taken all the wind out of their sails.  Now they have nothing left to do but listen.  “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.”  It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true.

Proverbs recommends the patient approach, because:

Proverbs 15:18

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.
So what’s so wrong with a quarrel?  Isn’t a good quarrel healthy now and then?  Not according to the Scriptures.

Proverbs 17:19

He who loves a quarrel loves sin; he who builds a high gate invites destruction.

Proverbs 17:14 

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

Proverbs 20:3 

It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.
Are you a quarrel-loving fool?  It may be time to rethink that position.

But sometimes, arguments seem impossible to avoid, especially when someone else says something harsh against you.  So if somebody insults you, how can you avoid a quarrel?

Proverbs 24:29

Do not say, “I’ll do to him as he has done to me; I’ll pay that man back for what he did.”

Proverbs 29:11

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.

Proverbs 26:4

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.

Proverbs 12:16
A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.
Such a gargantuan task we have as Christians, isn’t it?  It rather reminds one of that “turn the other cheek” bit that a certain Jesus of Nazareth is famous for saying.

These proverbs are so simple, but if we really followed them as we should, we could increase our persuasiveness by hundreds of times.  We could literally change the entire world.

I for one need to be reminded of these on a daily basis.  I plan to print these out and review them regularly.  Maybe next time a quarrel breaks out, I’ll be reminded to respond more like a wise man… and less like the fool that I usually am.