Home is Where

*EXTRA, EXTRA* This is what I intended to write about for Monday. I didn’t want to put it off until Friday, so here’s a special Tuesday edition of my What Remains blog for your reading pleasure.

Complete this sentence, “Home is where…” Umm, “the heart is?” I know, I thought the same thing initially on Sunday when our rector, the Reverend Liddy Hoster at Trinity Toledo opened her sermon with that not-at-all rhetorical question, and so did she, so she made us dig a little deeper and really consider how we would complete that sentence.

I volunteered with “Home is where you are loved.” Another responded with responses like “where if you go there, they have to let you in,” quoting Robert Frost. Others responded with “where you have secrets,” “where you have no secrets,” “where there is peaceful chaos” from a mom with four children under 5, and someone who has experienced living on the streets said, “Home is where you don’t go because you can’t.” It was getting deep fast and then another response came from one of our teens, who said “Home is where I can be me.” Okay, that hit me right in the chest. I am not really sure I heard most of the rest of Liddy’s sermon (sorry, Liddy) until the very end when she told us that God’s message to us was that we were his beloved ones and that we could come home.

I had been totally absorbed by this idea of home being where you can be yourself as you really are. Home is where you can be authentic, where you can be real, where you can be flawed, where you can be doubtful, where you can be anxious, where you can come with all your issues and your dreams and your funny clothes and funky hairstyle, and be accepted, and loved, and wanted.

What if we carried that idea of home further and considered what it means to not have that kind of home. It caused me to think about homelessness in a different way – not to undermine or trivialize the experiences of people who don’t have a physical roof over their heads – but actually to deepen my understanding of it.

Consider how many of our youth who live on the streets are there because “home” wasn’t a place where they could be themselves. According to some agencies who track these numbers, a high percentage of youth living on the streets are LGBT. They ran away or were put out by parents who couldn’t accept them as they were. They were not free to be themselves. “Home is where I can be me.” In other words, they are now un-housed because they were first made homeless.

LGBT folk and others who have been deemed to be “too much,” to be beyond the confines of normalcy, respectability, and our own provincial familiarity are also suffering from the homelessness of non-acceptance in their families, on college campuses, in their local communities – and in their churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship and fellowship.

Having a place where you can be you is so vitally important to our self-esteem and to healthy growth and development. It’s mandatory for our children. Young people need space to just be whoever they happen to understand themselves to be in that season. I’m not talking about letting children run free without discipline. I am talking about nurturing children’s passions, finding creative outlets for their interests, and supporting their experiments with how they want others to see them (dress and hairstyles), so long as they are not putting themselves or others in danger. This is how we figure out how to create the adults we want to grow up into. Restricting authenticity doesn’t protect our young people, it shuts them down and turns them dangerously inward like a turtle pulling its head into its shell. Growth doesn’t happen in the confines of restrictions.

Are you homeless today? Are you without a space (physically and psychically) where you can be yourself?

Are you creating homelessness for someone else by not accepting them for who they are, inclusive of all their strengths and limitations? Are we creating institutionalized homelessness in our colleges (see this story about Hampton’s business school’s 2001 policy banning male students in their leadership MBA program from wearing their hair in cornrows and locs)?

Are you someone’s home-space, that place where they can be authentic?

Are you seeking to create a home and to push that sense of home into all the nooks and crannies of your life? Are you eliminating from your life those places you call “home” but really are not because you cannot go there, because there is no one who will let you in?

I think these are questions we all need to consider for ourselves and those around us, especially for the young people whose lives we parent, mentor, and educate.

****

Read more about my thoughts on Hampton’s policy and other institutional policies in this week’s #higheredWed post.

My Last Word on Chic-fil-A Belongs to Wayne

Yes, this will be my last, well really it’s my first and only blog post about Chic-fil-A. These aren’t even my words; however, this author, Wayne Self, says this SO beautifully that I can just step inside his personal pronouns and hear myself. So, I’m copying his post below in its entirety unedited. It’s the smartest thing I’ve read yet about the situation and I hope you’ll take the time to fully read and completely consider Wayne’s words.

***************************************************************

Here’s the link to the original page, in case you want to go there directly: http://www.owldolatrous.com/?p=288

The Chick Fellatio: stuck in the craw

This post is all I have to say about the Chick-Fil-A controversy. It sums up various posts on the issue and various points made by my friends and I. From now own, rather than spend time debating this issue person by person, I’m going to point people here.

My hope here is to find common ground with those who have disagreed with me on the issue, and maybe to persuade. It’s not to ridicule or to best.

So, in the interest of common ground, let’s start here:  I acknowledge the absurdity of all this debate.

It’s definitely strange to have days-long Facebook debates flare up everywhere over a chicken sandwich. The anger, sarcasm, and hurt feelings on display seem strange or even laughable because most people have seen Chick-Fil-A as just a restaurant with a funny ad campaign. I’ll get into some of the whys and wherefores of that later. But, for now, let’s just say that, yes. It can seem ridiculous to get all worked up over fast-food chicken.

Let’s also agree that this isn’t about curtailing anyone’s rights under First Amendment. The Constitution is a legal document. This is not a legal argument. No one is arguing that Chik-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy should be put in prison, or silenced, or censored by the government. This has nothing to do with government censorship or government abridgment of Freedom of Speech. So don’t worry: the ability of this millionaire to legally spend his millions as he sees fit is not in jeopardy. You need not defend it.

Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of things. Please read carefully. These things have been said before, but not by me, and not all in one place. Please read with an open mind. If you can’t read with an open mind, please leave, take a minute, come back, and try again. If you can’t do that, then please don’t bother. Please read all of the words here, rather than just reading half of the argument and assuming you know what I’m saying. Read these words as they are written. Again, if you don’t want to read my words, then don’t continue.

So here goes:

1. This isn’t simply about marriage. Shocker, right? It’s extremely frustrating that same-sex marriage is the great continental divide. People are judged according to how they stand on this issue, as if no other issue matters. Did you know that a person can be for same-sex marriage and still be homophobic? Did you know that a person can be against same-sex marriage and be gay? We all get categorized very quickly based on the marriage issue and maybe that’s not fair. But here’s what you should know:

– In 29 states in America today, my partner of 18 years, Cody, or I could be fired for being gay. Period. No questions asked. One of those states is Louisiana, our home state. We live in self-imposed exile from beloved homeland, family, and friends, in part, because of this legal restriction on our ability to live our lives together.

– In 75 countries in the world, being gay is illegal. In many, the penalty is life in prison. These are countries we can’t openly visit. In 9 countries, being gay is punishable by death. In many others, violence against gays is tacitly accepted by the authorities. These are countries where we would be killed. Killed.

– Two organizations that work very hard to maintain this status quo and roll back any protections that we may have are the Family Research Council and the Marriage & Family Foundation. For example, the Family Research council leadership has officially stated that same-gender-loving behavior should be criminalized in this country. They draw their pay, in part, from the donations of companies like Chick-Fil-A. Both groups have also done “missionary” work abroad that served to strengthen and promote criminalization of same-sex relations.

– Chick-Fil-A has given roughly $5M to these organizations to support their work.

– Chick-Fil-A’s money comes from the profits they make when you purchase their products.

2. This isn’t about mutual tolerance because there’s nothing mutual about it. If we agree to disagree on this issue, you walk away a full member of this society and I don’t. There is no “live and let live” on this issue because Dan Cathy is spending millions to very specifically NOT let me live. I’m not trying to do that to him.

Asking for “mutual tolerance” on this like running up to a bully beating a kid to death on the playground and scolding them both for not getting along. I’m not trying to dissolve Mr. Cathy’s marriage or make his sex illegal. I’m not trying to make him a second-class citizen, or get him killed. He’s doing that to me, folks; I’m just fighting back.

All your life, you’re told to stand up to bullies, but when WE do it, we’re told WE are the ones being intolerant? Well, okay. Yes. I refuse to tolerate getting my ass kicked. “Guilty as charged.”

But what are you guilty of? When you see a bully beating up a smaller kid and you don’t take a side, then you ARE taking a side. You’re siding with the bully. And when you cheer him on, you’re revealing something about your own character that really is a shame.

3. This isn’t about Jesus. I have a lot of Christian friends. Most of them are of the liberal variety, it’s true, but even this concept seems lost on some of you. Most of them are pro-LGBT rights. Pro-gay and Pro-Christ are NOT mutually exclusive. They never have been, in the history of Christianity, though it’s been difficult at times. It’s not impossible to be both.

If someone is telling you it is, then maybe you should wonder why they’d do that. I see divorced Christians, remarried Christians, drug addict Christians. I see people with WWJD bracelets bumping and grinding on TV and raking in millions to do it. I see greedy, rapacious, vengeful people who are Christians. And these people are accepted in the Church, and the Church does very little to combat them. Sometimes it seems like being gay is the ONLY thing certain modern Christian movements won’t allow. Why’s that, I wonder?

Jesus had almost nothing to say about sexual behavior of any kind. He was too busy teaching more important things. Empathy is at the heart of his teachings. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Remember that? It’s in red. So let’s examine that:

4. If things were reversed, I’d stand up for you.

Please think about this: How would you feel if KFC came out tomorrow and said they were spending money against equality for Asian Americans, or African Americans, or religious people? Really. Think about it. What would you do? How would you feel? How would you feel if, after their announcement, there was a big increase in KFC sales and I was all over Facebook supporting KFC. Please stop reading right now and imagine this. I’m serious.

You can stop now because it’s ludicrous. It would never happen.

Oh, I don’t mean the part about KFC being against some group. That COULD happen. I mean the part about me supporting them. Let me tell you something, and you can damn well believe it: I’d sign on for the boycott IMMEDIATELY.

Why? Well, because I believe in equality for all people, that’s why. But also, personally, from the bottom of my heart: because you are my friend, and I don’t willingly support people who harm you for just being you. How could I? How could I, really? But, more importantly for our purposes, how could you?

Seriously, how could you? What has Chick-Fil-A ever done for you? Sold you some fatty chicken at a ridiculous mark-up? Made you chuckle at semi-literate cartoon cows? You mean more to me than KFC possibly could. If I, in turn, don’t mean more to you than a chicken sandwich from Chik-Fil-A–if my life, my quality of life, and my dignity are such afterthoughts to you that you’d not only refuse the boycott, but go out of your way to support someone who was hurting me? if I let this stand, if I don’t stand up to the bullies and if I let my friends egg the bullies on, what does that make me?

Well, it makes me a Chikin.

Yeah, so suddenly it is cause for anger, ridiculous or not.

But I’m not going to stop being Facebook friends with anyone over this issue.

Instead, I will remain. And, when you see my face with my partner’s in my profile, maybe you will examine not simply what your opinions are about gay people, or gay marriage, or the first amendment, even; maybe you’ll  examine not merely your opinions but your values. What is friendship to you? What is loyalty? How important are human life and dignity to you? Are they more important than fitting in with your social group? Are they more important than loyalty to a corporate brand, or a political party, or some misguided church teaching?

That’s why we’re so angry. This is personal for us. There are times in your life when you have the opportunity to stand up for your friends. When you let that opportunity pass, your friends notice. It doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, but it diminishes you, and it diminishes the friendship. That’s how it is, no matter what the issue or what the venue.

So stand up. Stand up for us. Do the right thing. You don’t have to agree with us on everything, but repudiate Chick-Fil-A. Unlike them on Facebook. Withdraw your support for them. Join us in the boycott. If you can’t do that, then please ask yourself whether I’m your friend. In fact, ask yourself whether anyone is.

This is all I have to say. If you’d like to debate the issue further, I’ll do it, but I’m not going to go around and around on the same points. If you’re just going to repeat yourself, save us both some time. If you haven’t taken the time to actually read this carefully and actually consider carefully what I’ve said, then I see no reason to waste further words.

The ball is in your court. Again, I urge you to do the right thing.

– Wayne Self
Twitter: @owldolatrous
Facebook: facebook.com/owldolatrous

Wayne Self is a playwright and composer whose current project is a musical tribute to the 32 LGBT and allied victims of the 1973 arson fire at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, LA. Considered by many to be the largest hate crime against LGBT people in U.S. history, the fire is sometimes seen as a lesson in the perils of silence. ”Upstairs” will give voice to the victims of the fire–many of whom self-identified as Christian–and is scheduled to premier next year, in time for the 40th anniversary of the tragedy. For more information about the Upstairs fire, please visit http://www.bilerico.com/2012/02/new_orleans_inferno_the_upstairs_lounge_fire.phpFor booking or production information, contact ewayneself@owldolatrous.com.