Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando

I’ve struggled yesterday and today not to be so angry over the events of the last 48 hours but I’ve failed miserably. I know that my anger is born out of sadness and a feeling of helplessness. Sadness over the loss of life and helplessness over not being able to positively impact the current atmosphere of hatred and bigotry that so permeates our society. Our politicians say the polite things that are expected in the media of how sorry they are, how we must stand united against hate, and then in the next breath continue to discriminate against the LGBT community.
There have been many supportive and touching posts. However there continues to be those who in an attempt to offer support, say things that although well meaning, touch a nerve indicating that they really do not understand what the LGBT community feels. One such post I read today said: “To my friends in the LGBTQ+ community, you are so loved. I grieve with you. This is hate, and this is wrong. I'm so sorry you are feeling fear today. You are not alone. You are dear and precious and so very loved. “ Very sweet, very heartfelt, but at the same time, the person posting does not understand that although the LGBT community is indeed feeling fear today, we in the community feel fear every day. Many if not most of us, have felt the fear of being assaulted for showing the slightest affection for our partners or spouses. Many if not most of us have felt the fear of being humiliated or worse because of the way we speak or carry ourselves. Many if not most of us have feared for our safety each and every day. Of course, most of us have not had the fear of being shot while in a nightclub or bar, but if a poll was taken, I’m sure an overwhelming majority of gay individuals would admit to being fearful in some respect when walking from their cars to a club, or from an event back to their cars. I have. In college one of my most cognizant memories is of the skepticism of simply walking from my car into the gay club in Greenville. Why? Because it was not rare to be accosted while making that 50 yard dash. The same was true when visiting Raleigh or Charlotte or Greensboro. In 2012, while I was more than happy to demonstrate in front of the NC Legislature building in opposition to Amendment 1, I was also fearful of the walk back to where we parked. 
Comments from religious leaders have also been abundant today. But I ask them, what have you done to quiet the atmosphere of hate that is permeating our society and your pews? Do you simply ask for prayers for the victims and their families and friends? While I do believe in prayer, we cannot pray the hate away. Have you made your voice heard publicly? Have you made your presence known? Do you actively seek out those in our community to help by offering a shoulder to cry on or a sounding board for their angst? If prayer for the victims is all you are doing for the LGBT community, then it is simply not enough. It may make you feel better, but it isn’t helping them.
I don’t know a single gay person who if asked, has not known some hesitancy or fear about being attacked, either verbally, physically or both, at some point in their lives. It’s something I’ve lived with for most of my life. In elementary school, I was ridiculed. In high school, I was assaulted. Why? Perception of being gay, perception of being different. 
While I appreciate all the nice things said and the heartfelt wishes of unity, and while this is a horrific event, gay people have always lived in fear. Fear of discovery. Fear of being ostracized. Fear of assault. Please don’t think we are surprised by the events of this weekend. We are distraught. We are in shock. We ARE afraid. But we are not surprised.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Goodbye UMC

Well it's official.  Today I sent emails & letters to the Bishop of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Capital District Superintendent of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church and the minister of Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church, requesting that my name be removed from membership in the UMC.

May 24, 2016
Re: UMC Membership

Bishop Ward, Rev. Fairley and Rev. Minnick,

I write this today after listening to the UMC General Conference 2016 as often I as I could the past two weeks, along with following the feeds on Twitter on a nearly pathological scale during the same amount of time.  My feelings on what was or was not accomplished at General Conference 2016 will probably seem simplistic at best.  I know that the issues that were before this conference were many, much larger and of greater scale than I could imagine and that the few issues that were of greatest concern to me possibly did not warrant as much attention from the body of the conference as I feel they should have received.  My greatest hope however since the 2012 General Conference was that the language in the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality and thus the attitude of the United Methodist Church would be altered to the point where everyone would not only be welcomed to the Table, but would actually have a Place at the Table.  This has not happened.  Non-acceptance of LGBT individuals as they are, as God made them, without allowing them to openly express who they are, is not acceptable to me.  My hope for the UMC was that it would truly be transformative into the Body of Christ in the world by first acknowledging the harm that the UMC has done in the past to the LGBT community and secondly, move forward with open arms to embrace ALL of God’s children equally.  I’m sure there are those that feel that is what the UMC is doing.  I however, along with a large number of others, do not.  I have not been a Methodist for that long although my father was a Methodist his entire life.  My mother was Baptist and I was raised Southern Baptist but left that Church in my late teens due to the intolerance I was seeing around the denomination.  I steered clear of organized Christianity for most of my life after that until finding Pleasant Grove UMC.  The ministry and sense of community I found there truly did become a part of my family.  PGUMC saw me through what was easily the worst period of my life.  Since General Conference 2012 I have had many conversations with my minister about the direction of the UMC.  Through hope, commitment and prayer, I pledged to see it through to the 2016 General Conference.  During the last four years I videoed a message to the Connectional Table in 2014 about “Why should I stay in the UMC?”; I contacted the Reconciling Ministries Network to become a member of one; I sent letters and emails of protest during trials of Pastors who I felt were actually following through on being Disciples of Christ by ministering to the LGBT community.  Most recently, I emailed Bishop Ward to please make a statement about North Carolina’s HB2 legislation.  I have remained faithful to my pledge to see it through to General Conference 2016.  But the UMCGC came and is now over.  All votes on human sexuality were deferred and the Council of Bishops suggested that the topic be referred to a special commission to review & discuss the language in the Book of Discipline with regard to human sexuality.  After 40+ years of struggling to be heard and waiting, the UMC is now asking the LGBT community to wait until 2018 or 2019.  Nothing substantive changed.  They entertained motions this time, but in the end did what has always been done, deferred to later.  The UMC once again has chosen unity over justice and equality.  Holding together a denomination is more important than living into the teachings of Christ.  It is time.  It is time for me to admit that I cannot in good conscience remain a member of the United Methodist Church as it is at this time.  It is time for me to respectfully request that my name be stricken from the membership rolls of the United Methodist Church.  Given that the UMC lost more than 52,000 members in 2015, it is realistic to say that judging by the outrage over this General Conference, the number for 2016 will be even greater.  My absence will just be one but I know I’m not the only one.

I pray that the UMC will one day live into my understanding of the teachings of Christ and the vision of John Wesley.  I am but one lay person.  I leave the Methodist Church with a heavy heart.  I know that I will always be welcome at Pleasant Grove UMC regardless of my membership or any future church/denomination affiliation.

Thank you for your time.  I will continue to hold you in my prayers.

Jeff Holland

I did receive a response from my minister expressing appreciation for the email.  He went on to say "Of course I am saddened by the entire situation but I can understand your need to look elsewhere for a community in which you are welcomed wholeheartedly for who you are--period."  He is a wonderful and caring man and pastor.  Thank you Jay.

Friday, May 13, 2016

And the beat goes on...and on...and on

Yep, the beat and everything else goes on.  HB2 is still the MONSTER in the state and wreaking havoc on all things progressive.  But no one is going down easy on this and we have some wonderful allies, including the federal government.  But no reason to rant about this on here as you can see my daily, sometimes hourly rants on Facebook & Twitter.

Last weekend was Out!Raleigh 2016 and it was wonderful.  The estimated attendance this year was 50,000!  Last year was 25,000 and everyone thought that was incredible.  There were so many people streaming in and out all day long.  Steve and I were there for about 2 hours.  First down one side of the street and then back up the other looking at all the exhibits, making a couple of purchases (who doesn't need a new rainbow flag?), talking to friends and past acquaintances and generally having a good time being out and about among people.  The atmosphere was one of joy and admittedly defiance.  The protesters (last I heard there were a total of 3, not 3 protests, just 3 protesters) were kept at a distance and I heard of no confrontations.

Work is keeping me more than occupied and I am so ready for July and a trip to the beach.  Who doesn't need a week of relaxation, sand and surf?

As I type this, the UMC General Conference is in day 3 of it's 10 day meeting.  Thus far, although there has been plenty of talk, nothing has been settled.  I am still hopeful but not optimistic.  Bottom line is that I will know by May 20th whether I will remain a Methodist or not.  There are so many ways that all this can go down.  1- The language in the BOD is not changed.  If that happens, I leave. 2- The language in the BOD is changed, but not in a way that makes the progressives 100% happy.  If that happens, I leave.  3-The language in the BOD is removed, or changed, that make the progressives 100% happy.  If that happens, I stay.  If version 1 happens, it is conceivable that the UMC will cease to exist due to a complete schism within the church.  If that happens and the church becomes 2 separate entities, then I will have the option to go with those that are of a like mind.  If version 3 happens, the most likely scenario is that the conservatives leave the church and there is a complete schism within the church.  If that happens and the church becomes 2 separate entities, then I will have the option to stay with those that are of a like mind. (sound familiar).  Obviously, regardless of what happens in General Conference, I have the option to do what I want to do.  I have been going to UPUCC regularly for eight months now.  Is it ideal?  Not necessarily, but it does allow for me to be the true me.  It does value what I value.  If I could have the PGUMC people, behave & believe like the UPUCC church, then I would be thrilled.  Will that ever happen? No.  Not even if conference res the way I want it to go.  PGUMC & UPUCC are filled with different people, with different attitudes.
My choice, after conference, where I feel I fit best.  Many options to consider.  Today, I will watch more coverage of conference and continue to weigh my options with regard to what is best for me.

So that is where I am.  Happy, ready for change if needed, but moving forward regardless.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

HB2

HB2 -  Those that know me well, know that I am incensed by this new law that was passed last week by the legislature & signed by the governor.  With that said, if you are a supporter of HB2, you might as well stop reading, hide posts from me or even unfriend me because I am so angry, I am not going to let this go.  Also, because I am so annoyed by McScary & his legislature cronies, at the onset I know this will probably be a very long RANT on my part.  So you are forewarned.
The “bathroom bill” as it is being referred to, on the very surface without giving it much thought, can seem to be harmless enough.  But if you read it, and think about it, you will see that it is such a discriminatory piece of bullsh*t.  It has been billed as legislation to protect “family values” with regard to bathrooms & locker rooms. However it also includes other broad discriminatory language and that assh*le in the governors mansion continues to describe it as “common sense legislation”.
Point 1: Protection for individual citizens of North Carolina -  Question: Does this take existing protections away?  Gov. McScary says it doesn’t but rather establishes a statewide anti-discrimination policy in NC which is tougher than the federal government’s.  However, that claim is problematic at best.  The law wipes away protections for people against being fired on the basis of “race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or disability”.  In particular, the bill says NC law does not create, and shall not be construed to create or support a statutory or common law private right of action and no person may bring any civil action based upon this new public policy.  Therefore if an individual feels they have been wrongfully fired, they cannot sue, but have to head to FEDERAL COURT.   Also, in at least 3 cities in NC, there were previously held nondiscrimination ordinances that are affected.  The one in Charlotte that was the so called basis for HB2; also Greensboro has a nondiscrimination policy that covers many things including housing; and Raleigh has a policy that prohibits discrimination by city contractors on the basis of age, handicap, sex, race, color, creed, sexual orientation and national origin.  HB2 says that the policy of the state is to prohibit discrimination based on “Race, Religion, Color, National origin, Age, Biological sex or Handicap”.  Conspicuously absent from the list is sexual orientation.  (Sexual orientation was discussed during the legislative session drawing up the bill but was determined to not be necessary and therefore omitted)
Point 2: Will this affect the business environment in NC?  McScary says no.  He says that it doesn’t affect companies in NC and will not change any corporate policies.  The governor doesn’t seem to understand that employees do not live their lives at their place of employment and that outside of work, they too are subject to the laws of NC.  Since the bill was signed, more than 120 corporate execs along with Mayors of major municipalities around the country and Governors of several states have restricted government travel to NC.  The NCAA is looking at whether to continue to have sanctioned sporting events here; the NBA is looking at problems with having the NBA All Star game in Charlotte in 2017 (Atlanta has already asked to have it moved to Georgia); the High Point Furniture Market continues to have cancellations from those previously scheduled to attend. Television & movie studios have halted filming or moved upcoming filming in NC.  Multiple conferences have moved to other states meaning the loss of 100's of rooms and rentals. The point being, this will have an effect on how businesses view NC and the environment here.
Point 3: The bathroom part (only 1 part of a 5 part Bill).  The governor says that anyone who has had sex reassignment surgery can have their birth certificate changed so that they will legally be able to use the public restroom/shower facility of the sex they are.  1- not all states will allow the birth certificate to be changed even after the surgery.  2- not all transgender people have the surgery due to a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the cost of the surgery or possible complications/risks from the surgery.  What do they do?  Live as one sex, but use the opposite sex bathroom when in public?  Seriously a bad idea.  The right wing contingent says it is for safety so “our mothers, sisters and daughters don’t have to worry about a man dressing up as a woman just to gain access to public restrooms and showers to ogle at or assault them”.  In what universe are they living?  Transgender people are not out ogling and assaulting people in restrooms.  We don’t have a single case of this happening.  It’s actually more apt for a transgender person to be assaulted in the bathroom when they are forced to use the inappropriate facility.  Will the transgender male living as a woman run the risk of assault in the men’s room when forced to go in there?  You bet your ass they will.  Will ladies in the women’s room freak out when the transgender female living as a man is forced to go to the women’s restroom?  Of course they would and they would probably call the police and then another can of worms is opened when the police arrive.  The essence of the bill is that we have to use the gender specific bathroom that corresponds to the gender that is on our birth certificate.  How is this going to be monitored?  Will the jobs that we lose in NC due to corporations pulling out or not even considering NC in the first place be replaced by restroom monitors?  Do we need to carry business card size replicas of our birth certificates?  It’s all ridiculous!
Point 4: The lawsuits.  They have already started.  NC is going to have to come up with untold numbers of dollars to fight the myriad of lawsuits that are going to stem from this.  Besides losing jobs, the citizens of NC will also have to deal with the costs of fighting this discriminatory law in federal court.  
Other issues up for discussion stemming from HB2 are also disability rights, Title IX funding and the list continues to grow as more and more segments of the populace realize they are affected by this piece of crap legislation.
Bottom line: Don’t be passive in your opinions to this.  Your state representatives as well as national representatives need to know how unhappy we are.  The state of NC is a laughing stock in the eyes of the nation right now.  We are last in education but first in discrimination.  We in NC deserve better than this and we are a better people than what this law represents.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hello 2016....it's me

Hello 2016!  Yep, borrowed a little something from Adele.  But I don't think she will mind.  The holidays were wonderful.  First time in so many years that there wasn't some kind of cloud.  Although the absence of Aimee was indeed evident, the presence of Wayne home for the first time in 20 years helped tremendously. That coupled with my personal good news was enough to put smiles on faces all around.

Post Thanksgiving at my sisters; a pre-Christmas trip to Williamsburg; the normal Christmas Eve trip to my sisters and then a relaxing New Years Eve and following weekend for us was just what the doctor ordered. I couldn't have scripted it better had I had the power to do so.

We laughed, we cried, we relaxed, we slept, we shopped (oh, how well did we shop), and then we laughed some more.  Laughter really is an excellent medicine.  Regardless of what else is going on, a few belly laughs and the smiles of those you love can help in ways that drugs can't!

Hello 2016.  Please be a good one.  I'm counting on it and so looking forward to everything positive that you can bring to our lives and all the new beginnings that are possible.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Happy Holidays

There are so many things that I would like to openly write about on here and then there are so many things that I probably should have kept to myself and I wrote waaaayyyy to openly about in the past.

So in an effort to be transparent about the things I should write about and mum about the things I shouldn't, here goes.  There have been biopsies, CT scans, ultrasounds, a prostatic MRI, a complete body bone scan, multiple DRE's, and more blood tests than I can remember over the last few months. I have had PSA tests run with different labs, each with "unique" results.  I have been examined by I think 6 different doctors.  Bottom line, my numbers are good right now and I am foregoing active treatment for the time being.  I already have several follow up doctor appointments for more blood tests & DRE's in the coming months.  Should any test result show a shift, we are ready to pull the trigger on radiation.  I've been given all the information my meager little brain can absorb and at the point in time, when radiation is necessary, I will most likely go with the brachytherapy option instead of the EBRT.  I feel good about the decision and at the very least, during the holiday season (yes, I said HOLIDAY and I'm NOT waging a war on Christmas), I can just try to relax and enjoy without trips back and forth to the Duke Cancer Center.

Though some may think I'm being fool hardy and should just go ahead and have the surgery (yes, I've heard that from more than one person...some people seem more than ready to tell me I'm wrong), I'm just not ready at this point to alter my anatomy and accept the repercussions.  If it becomes absolutely warranted, then of course I would.  But right now, it is not warranted.

But here we are just before Thanksgiving and just around the corner is Christmas.  This year I am going to take a few days vacation just before Christmas like I did in days of old.  This year it will be a return trip to Williamsburg.  I'm sure I'll come back with plenty of pictures of doors.  (If anyone has ever been, the doors and more specifically the wreaths on the doors at Christmas traditionally have been quite beautiful)  But door photos are not the reason for the trip.  The reason, I need a BREAK!

Unless something really unexpected or maybe something wonderful happens, I will probably forego any posts until such time as there is real news.  So, if you don't see anything on here, don't worry, that is a good sign that things are going well....or I can post photos of doors??????

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Advent season.  Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.