A New Way of Marriage?

A friend of mine, Bart Campolo, brought this recent TIME Magazine article to my attention through his blog. The article is about two law professors, one who is in favor of gay marriage and the other who is against it, and their new theory in how to provide legal and political space for marriage, that would satisfy both ends of the spectrum. They suggest that in order to provide this space marriage must be removed from the hands of the government.

“Instead, give gay and straight couples alike the same license, a certificate confirming them as a family, and call it a civil union — anything, really, other than marriage. For people who feel the word marriage is important, the next stop after the courthouse could be the church, where they could bless their union with all the religious ceremony they wanted. Religions would lose nothing of their role in sanctioning the kinds of unions that they find in keeping with their tenets. And for nonbelievers and those who find the word marriage less important, the civil-union license issued by the state would be all they needed to unlock the benefits reserved in most states and in federal law for married couples.”

In a further explanation the article went on to state that:

“Both sets of lawyers agreed that the idea would resolve the equal-protection issue. Take the state out of the marriage business and then both kinds of couples — straight and gay — would be treated the same.”

It’s an interesting concept, one that I think the GLBT and secular communities would have no problem with—but ultimately one that I don’t think the Church would ever agree to. Legally it makes sense: if there is a legally documented separation between Church and State, then marriage must be included in that separation as well. These professors’ theory makes room for such a thing. But at the end of the day the Church has staked a claim on the “marriage business” and I would be shocked to systemically see that ever change.

None the less, it doesn’t mean it’s not a great concept or one that should be seriously considered.

I was wondering all of your thoughts as well? This could be a really interesting discussion…

Much love.
http://www.themarinfoundation.org/

About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Jon Trouten

    Gay couples, in most areas of the US, have been having weddings in churches without the benefit of state marriage licenses for years. My husband and I were married at our Iowa church 12 years ago. The church recognizes us. The state still doesn’t think that either we or our children are worthy of the civil protections or responsibilities of marriage. Frankly, I’d be fine with a state civil union or domestic partnership or whatever. But those are pretty toothless when unrecognized by the federal government or by employers (“sorry, we only recognize married spouses — not domestic partners”).

    Like you, I don’t see the church going for this compromise. Or any compromise, really. The church, by and large, is doing everything to keep our relationships voided. It’s also doing everything that it can to prevent us from adopting, fostering children, having job protections, serving in the military, whatever. The church is out to protect gay people from ourselves. They won’t budge and they won’t stop fighting to reverse any protections that we do acquire.

  • Anonymous

    From the legal viewpoint, it makes lots of sense. Sometimes, I think the gay marriage issue became so big because of the insurance issue.
    Our 'socialistic' government years ago mandated that employers have to give some benefits to full-time workers, and the people themselves are always demanding insurance. It has become almost a birthright in our country.
    Enter the gay worker. He does just as good a job as the 'straight' worker. The straight worker is eligible for insurance for his spouse & kids. The gay worker in his mind feels as married as Mr. Straight, but under the law, he is considered single. So he receives o insurance. One day his partner gets very ill. He feels cheated.
    So the story goes!
    My solution would be for each worker to be able to insure one person of choice if that benefit is added. It would mess up the fee structure as someone may choose to insure her elderly mother or handicapped child. But, the spouse may be sickly, too. It never can be completely resolved, but can you see how the gay person would feel?
    The civil union would solve that problem. The civil partner would automatically be the one to be insured, etc.
    But there may be some who would just pick a friend or a neighbor to have a 'union' with, so that person would get the insurance. I think my Streetwise vendor is a very nice guy. If I were single, I could arrange for him to use my address, & then do a civil union so he could get more help. See how the human mind works, trying to beat the system. While civil unions sound like a good idea, there may be other problems.
    Now that our government is even more socialistic, they may not even mind, as they are spending our money, not theirs.
    As I write this, I see that this is even more complex than I thought.
    But I do sympathize with the GLBT community, & as a Christian, ask fellow Christians not to be so judgmental toward others. They haven't walked that mile in their moccasins. D.T.

  • Anonymous

    I think that some people would be fine with calling everything civil unions, but honestly, as a member of the gay community who is getting married (legally in Massachusetts), there is still a fundamental problem with that. It still implies that gay people are second class citizens, so to speak, and are not worthy of the word marriage. The actual word “marriage” is so completely important. We are fighting for the recognition that we deserve – the right to marry – just as any other straight human being. Taking this off the table and making things civil unions, in my opinion, is not the answer. It might be a temporarily good solution, but it is still damaging and it is still separating the rights of the gay community from the rights of the straight community, and backing down from the fight, which is that all individuals should have the right to marry whomever they choose.

  • Andrew Marin

    I think a few very good points are being brought up:

    1. The slight the gay community feels for anything that might be considered “equal” within culture

    2. Christians (at least 1 now) understanding this is WAY more complex than many conservatives are led to believe

    3. The word “marriage” is a big deal!

    I think the article does a good job in bringing up the usage of the word “marriage”, highlighting its significance from both persepectives. I have a friend in Los Angeles who opened my eyes to something like this recently….

    He got married to his partner when it was legal. They went through the hastle of changing all of the information (insurance, bank, etc), and then when it was repealed, they had to go back and do everything all over again. They have been together about 20 years, so did any of the legal stuff change their relationship? No. But he was sooo mad because he felt his heart and emtions were getting played with by people who didn’t care about him, his life or his family. I had never thought about it like that before – through his eyes, through his filtration system, and the effect the back-and-forth can so strongly have. And I can almost promise every other conservative Christian doesn’t realize this either.

    The one thing that I have always thought for people who “compromise” over civil unions instead of marriage: civil unions are in essence the same thing as marriage, just called something different! Why are people letting lingual semantics make them feel “better” about what they stand for if it’s the same thing?

  • Jon Trouten

    Andrew: Civil unions aren’t the same thing as marriage. This has been observed in Vermont, New Jersey, California, wherever they offer CUs/DPs instead of marriage equality. Employers don’t treat CU/DP spouses equally. Businesses don’t treat CUs/DPs equally. Hospitals haven’t been treating them equally (especially in Jersey).

    I have no clue why people like yourself haven’t considered the emotional toll on gay couples who find ourselves going back and forth with regards the legality or the security of our relationships. Personally, I don’t believe that most conservative Christians care about this issue. They just want our relationships legally voided.

    First Anonymous: Yes, some people might enter in civil unions with people other than the one they love/nurture/support/care for/etc. The same thing goes one with marriage licenses with straight couples. If you want to enter into a marriage or a civil union with someone like your vendor and then risk the financial and legal repurcussions of the eventual divorce, that’s within your rights I guess…

  • Andrew Marin

    Jon, sorry for my mistake on my understanding of the difference between civil unions and marriage. As for “people like yourself”, I don’t at all believe (for the majority – I’m talking bell curve here) that conservative Christians want to void everything gay. I believe that they (once again, bell curve) are trying to stay true to what their theological belief system says…just like you are doing the same for what you believe.

    I believe the broader issue is, like it was through my experience, one can understand an emotional construct or empathize with another’s situation, but until that ethereal construct is legitimately brought face to face, many (including myself) could not at all grasp the potency of what the situation brings. The bigger probelm is, when that sacred moment is brought to the doorstep of people, what do they do with that information and experience. And no, most conservative folks don’t care about it like you do.

    But because I’m so involved with all of my GLBT friends and people in The Marin Foundation, the one thing I can’t shake from my head is:

    “If I were gay I would be fighting just as diligently as you are.”

    And that gives me a whole new perspective on what it means to live, and peacefully and productively build bridges in this disconnected “culture war”….something that some on both ends of the divide are missing.

  • Jon Trouten

    So what are gay people like your friends in California missing when their neighbors are voting on the constitutional legitimacy of their marriage? What are they blind to in the culture war disconnect?

    What does bridge-building look like for this couple or for me when our families are literally under attack?

    Maybe a better question should be how should we express our anger and our helplessness when our families are legislatively attacked by people who have a theological beef against us?

  • Andrew Marin

    About missing the point: I was trying to communicate the broader issue that conservative folks need to find that place of realization as I did, one that opened my eyes to a whole new interal and practical expression of what it is to try to somehow understand what GLBT people are going through on a daily basis – something that I've come to learn straight folks have NO IDEA what that must be like…something we wrongly take for granted!And on the other end from the gay community what I was trying to communicate with that point was a reversal in trying to understand where conservative folks are coming from as well (bell curve again). There are always outliers, and there always will be. Much more than not, both belief systems are filled with extremely well intentioned people trying to stay true to what they believe. Bridging cannot happen from only one end. If you reach out to me and I don't try to understand where you're coming from, you can't do it all by yourself….there is no point in even continuing to try at that juncture. And if I reach out and you don't try to understand where I'm coming from, I can't do it all by myself either. In learning to listen and love, we can at least take a step forward toward more peaceful relationships. But as I said in my last comment:"If I were gay I would be fighting just as diligently as you are."That is me admitting that I'm trying to get it as much as I can; and I can only do that with your help. Thank you for putting yourself, thoughts, feelings and experiences out there. And then, "how one should express anger":At least from within the conservative community, there is much anger as well because broadly, they feel there is a "gay agenda" which is being forced upon them. Right or wrong, my word is that conservative folks need not negatively express their perceived anger because at the end of the day I believe that anger wrongly expressed perpetuates the divide. That is not to say everyone must numb their feelings and not express them. It is rather to say there is a peaceful and productive way to express them that not only gets the point across, but also provides space for those who don't agree with you to grow and learn from your feelings and experiences.Much love.

  • Anonymous

    Massachussetts Anonymous says the word marriage is important. Yes, it is! That's why everyone would get a civil union, then go to whatever agency(church, temple, club, etc.)they choose & get married under that auspice(sp?).They would call it marriage & refer to their partner as their spouse. When everyone goes for insurance(or whatever legal documentation needed), they would show their civil union documents. The HR dept. or hwatever agency would not care if they were gay or straight & wouldn't even have to know. So whatever lifestyle you are in, you can feel as married as you want & when you have legal dealings, you will be treated equally. Does that make sense?D.T. again.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Audrey, I have read both of your latest comments, and a few other comments in this thread going back to March. It seems to me folks are giving way more power to "the Church" (for keeping gays out of the military???) than it merits in treading on gay toes.

    The Church universal is an awfully big and diverse entity. Many different denominations and theological divergences with differing governing bodies and ways of doing things. I am not aware of a vast Church conspiracy against gays, but I am aware, as are you, of lots of individual attitudes that speak to ignorance of folks who don't get you or are concerned about a gay agenda.

    So here we are — people on two sides of the fence with a great deal of wariness toward one another. And you seem to want Andrew to be some kind of miracle worker and make it all go away. It takes a lot of effort from both sides to override ignorance and prejudice.

    Andrew wrote in a follow-on comment in this discussion about anger in the conservative community. Anger in the gay community is certainly in evidence from these comments. Audrey, you have much anger toward men and toward conservative Christians. You are aware, I presume, that there are plenty of women who also don't get feminism or care much for it. We see God as representing an image that is both male and female, which gender-complementary marriage is meant to reflect. Works for the vast majority of people.

    "If we did this to your weddings you’d be blowing us up!" you say. Who is the "you" being referred to here and what is the "this" they are doing?

    You've expressed a lot of rambling thoughts here and in your other comment. Not much that's productive in either, I'm sorry to say. Much of it is just plain weird. Lesbian feminists are not happy people, by all I can see.

    Andrew needs to be a little more forthright in some of his responses, I think. He has got to be the nicest guy on the planet, seeking to do the hardest job.

    Government seeks too much authority, I imagine we all agree. But it does have a stake in protecting the best interests of the majority of its people. The dictates of conscience compel government to also protect the most vulnerable among us. Marriage is the way it is because of children, plain and simple. They are the most vulnerable and are our future. That's why the government has sought to encourage and maintain traditional marriage.

  • Audrey

    We just celebrated our 34th anniversary a few weeks ago. We had a holy union ceremony at a lesbian and gay church in San Francisco back in 1987. I asked my partner to marry me in 1981, not knowing then exactly how we would accomplish this. We validated ourselves within a lesbian and gay christian community. For a very long time, we didn’t have much to do with straight people at all. They just ceased to exist in our world.

    I’m very glad we didn’t wait around for straight people to “decide” anything for us, because one should be able to have this experience while you are young, not when you are 65 years old!

    Troy Perry performed the first gay marriage in 1968 in California, so clearly we have never really needed straight approval to do anything. We certainly don’t look to men to do anything for us either!

    Last year, we were treated very badly by a nice restaurant in town, and had to walk out to find a less lesbian-phobic place. They obviously didn’t like the idea of lesbians celebrating something as sacred as their anniversary.

    This year, the waitress welcomed us with a bright and sunny “happy anniversary”– the first time this has ever happened in all these years. I think the lesbian marriage issue has simply made a lot of straight people a whole lot nicer to us. We, of course, are very serious about our marriage, and have had no social support for it in the wider culture. The brutal homophobia directed at lesbian and gay couples is cruel, horrible and in your face. If we did this to your weddings you’d be blowing us up!
    I don’t know what lesbian or gay marriage truly means, because as lesbians, we find marriage largely about men wanting women to be property. Guys, if you are married to a woman and she has YOUR last name, that is about property. If you change YOUR last name to your spouse’s, that is innovative.

    I boycott straight weddings now, and won’t ever attend any of them until there is full equality in this country. I don’t ever attend a Christian church which doesn’t use inclusive language for god. “If God is a male, then the male is god” to quote a very famous radical lesbian philosopher.

    The cruelty that evangelical christians have directed towards the lesbian and gay community over this issue alone I think should secure a firm place in the infamy historical hall of fame. It brings nothing but shame on the homophobes, their closeted ‘preachers” (Ted Haggard comes to mind), and it really makes a mockery of christianity in general.

    When my liberal straight friends used to poo poo my complaints about evil straight people, the right wing hate machine shocked them in 2008. So really, the hate christians display towards lesbians and gays will eventually backfire. We have to be very careful not to imitate hetero norms. As lesbians, we believe in equality within the home. We don’t believe women are the servants of men in marriage, we most certainly believe men incapable of true equality with women, and I’ve always been very thankful that I’m a lesbian feminist intellectual. When I look at right wing movements like Quiverfull, and hear anti-woman messages preached at conservative women, I am very thankful that I never grew up in fundamentalist circles.

    Your work Andrew should open some eyes, but again, your ministry won’t work unless lesbians and gays speak for themselves. You’re simply someone who can talk to the right wing haters, bigots and homophobic sexist straight men out there. That’s good, because I have no patience with them at all anymore. “Forgive them mother for they know not what they do.”

  • Audrey

    If marriage is about protecting children, then how do you protect the children of gay and lesbian couples? Or do you only view heterosexual couples with children as real, and lesbian couples with children as inauthentic?

    To me, marriage is not about children, it is about the love two people feel for each other. I don't know many couples straight or gay or lesbian who have children. It's not what I'm interested in, so I gravitate to people who are committed to careers, and intellectual development. I don't have much interest in families with children, so I really can't speak to that today.

    My knowledge of heterosexual families ended when I moved away from home decades ago. So I probably know almost nothing about straight people and their families as most straight people know next to nothing about long term lesbian couples.

    The culture gap is vast. So it's hard to say where the common ground is, other than that we are christians. But again, how we approach this, and what we pay attention to in terms of christianity is another thing too.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    "If marriage is about protecting children, then how do you protect the children of gay and lesbian couples? Or do you only view heterosexual couples with children as real, and lesbian couples with children as inauthentic?"

    Good question, Audrey. I don't have all the answers, but I suppose we would create a larger community that affirms and guides those children with a loving hand. The proverbial village. Children have to be educated, so that exposes them to teachers and other parents. If they are also being brought up in a church environment, they have many other role models in their lives. Extended family and friends play a large role. I think we all need friends and acquaintances from across a broad spectrum. We ought not be afraid of that.

    Of course, I don't view gay couples or families as inauthentic. How could I say that about real people with real needs, the same as any other family has?

    I don't know what entity has the power necessary to take this issue that so divides us and make it what it ought to be. It's a bigger problem than any one entity can handle. It seems to me it is doing what we are doing here — having conversations that help us to know one another better — that will be the most productive at the end of the day. Governments, schools and churches tend to muck it up in many ways.

    I do know, Audrey, that somehow you were raised and made it to adulthood. You probably look back on that experienced with mixed feelings, like most of us have. I came from a broken home with an alcoholic father. That was tough. I added to it some problems of my own choosing. But I made it through some deep waters, with the help of others who loved me, and with God's grace.

    Peace to you.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    "I do know that if gays and lesbians are excluded from historical texts in schools, or if churches preach that gays and lesbians are more sinful than heteros, then the children of lesbian and gay couples have a double burden. They will feel horrible and reluctant to even admit they might have two moms or two dads. This is an issue many lesbian parents face, and it’s growing."

    That would certainly be a problem for them. Isn't it interesting how long gay society has been around, mostly underground, as you say, without the culture war erupting? Do you suppose the Stonewall riots was a big part of changing that? Christian activism was mostly liberal in those days. Somehow, it all exploded.

  • Audrey

    Thanks for your letter Debbie. This blog is interesting to me, because it’s about real people talking about their real lives.

    I brought up the issue of lesbian couples and their children, because a lot of right wing rhetoric is “what about the children?” or “Save the children” and these slogans amuse me, because of the great diversity of family structure just within my little neighborhood, let alone the whole world.

    I do know that if gays and lesbians are excluded from historical texts in schools, or if churches preach that gays and lesbians are more sinful than heteros, then the childen of lesbian and gay couples have a double burden. They will feel horrible and reluctant to even admit they might have two moms or two dads. This is an issue many lesbian parents face, and it’s growing.

    Who exactly does marriage protect? And what is the nature of the protection? This is an interesting issue to me, because now my straight friends say they envy me. Imagine that! I was unprepared for a friend to tell me recently about her three failed marriages, and how this impacted her life. Her struggle to raise a 16 year old boy, just the economic challenges alone were daunting for her. I’ve been together with my partner for 34 years, even without all the social approval that goes with a heterosexual marriage, and I think one reason for this, is that my parents were happy in their marriage, my relatives were happy in theirs, and all of us came out of “mixed” marriages — Jews and catholics, methodists and Jews, and of course the newest kids on the block,,, us lesbians, the ultimate in unmixed marriage (bad joke there).

    My parents faced ungodly discrimination and hostility from, you guessed it, fundamentalist christians when they were first married. Fundamentalist christians came to our door to try to convert my dad. So I think I learned how to deal with the world of my parents, and thus, when I realized I was a lesbian, I knew what I was up against, and had the social skills to deal with this hostility better.

    Women in our family line went to college for three generations, all were leaders in their families. My father always bragged happily that my Mom was the smartest when they went to college, that sort of thing. All the women on the Jewish side of the family had challenging careers, back when this was rare for women.

    I actually am largely mystified by how all this hoopla came about just because lesbians and gays wanted to be in the church as themselves, or what exactly our existence did that posed such a great threat to institutional heterosexuality? I know I know, radical lesbian feminists like to have the belief that we are overthrowing the patriarchy, and I must admit, that’s my gang. Yeah, down with patriarchy… a pleasant thought on a rainy day, but lately, in my later years, I often think, “we are such a miniscule group on the planet Debbie, so obscure, that hardly any straight people actually know us well at all. My little group is about 1% of the population according to good old Kinsey. Most women I meet have been married to men, or were or are bisexual. I meet many women who come out very late in life …. late 40s, early 50s, fall in love with women. Even they weren’t “out” to themselves.

    Surely we don’t have the power to overthrow the majority, unless the majority is simply insecure in its identity.

    What this site can do is simply reveal who lesbians and gays are. If we’re feminists or if we are from the activist generation, well a lot of us simply don’t connect well with straight people in any meaningful way. We don’t go to your churches, we certainly aren’t out ministers or leaders in right wing fundamentalist churches, unless we are closeted.

    So, we’re out in the world. Most of my christian life here has been in exclusively lesbian and gay groups… churches, small worship and bible study groups, lesbian feminist christian organizations, yes, you heard it right, we don’t find it contradictory to be lesbian, feminist AND shock of shocks christians :-) We just form our own groups to serve our needs, and we avoid the straight condemning places.

    I suppose I’m telling secrets out of turn, but many lesbian christians feel oppressed by gay men who insist on using male god language, who reject the right of women to be leaders, and who don’t conduct worship services that meet the needs of lesbian feminists. We aren’t into hierarchy, we write our own songs, we interpret the bible from what we call “a hermanutic of suspicion.” I believe Rev. Carter Heyward may have invented this term.
    It means, we look at the bible critically, and identify that which is life giving and that which is simply about a patriarchal culture thousands of years ago. Since no men attend our informal house churches, Paul’s admonition for women to shut up in church seems rather absurd to us.

    To tell you the truth, I’m still rather amazed that our little life became such a big issue. We’d been living lesbian and gay marriage way before it ever became a presidential issue. We had our lesbian clergy way before ELCA ever ‘granted” the right of lesbian clergy in partnerships access to those jobs. Yet. all that work over the last 25 years really did change things for the better for lesbians and gay men.

    Now people like poor Andrew are catching up, or at least getting first hand information about gay male life. Remember, lesbian life is not the same as gay male life.

    Lesbians and gay men have created all kinds of innovative spiritual communities, and have done so for centuries. Our traditions date back to ancient times, and so does our spiritual power and insight.

    I personally don’t have much interest in the straight world socially or spiritually per say. It’s not animosity oftentimes, just lack of cultural connection. Most of the time, lesbians and gay people simply seem straight christians as clueless bigots, or raving homophobes… the men that is.

  • Audrey

    Well, living a closeted secret life is certainly not about liberation. The mid-20th century was about all kinds of liberation movements, so I was lucky enough Debbie to be a part of the spirit of the times.

    When blacks “knew their place” all was fine, according to white people. When the oppressed speak up and refuse to be silenced, then all of society is shocked into readjusting what it thinks was once true and no longer is.

    So liberation is supposed to make the status quo think.

    On a more personal note, I’m glad you worked through your difficulties in your marriage. But don’t let your personal situation be a reason to exclude gays and lesbians from legal relationships either.

    As I said before, I believe a lot of conservative christians really struggle with a lot of things, and take this out on us. When I hear the phrase “family values” I think there must be trouble in that family. I’d never use the term, and found a lesbian feminist value system that was real and true to my inner character.

    Things explode as a reaction to oppression eventually. It happens every so often in history. I felt I was born at the perfect time in history, and that the times were perfect for a woman of ambition who didn’t want to have men control my life. Well, another time I would have loved to have lived in was the lesbian culture on the left bank of Paris in the 1920s. That would have been grand too.

    To me, a lot of people are opportunists in this so-called culture war. I’m often shocked when friends tell me that they didn’t know anyone who voted for George Bush, or anyone who is a republican. I certainly would never want that type of ideological isolation. It would be intellectually dull, and nothing would ever change Debbie.

    I look to the generations of young women in the future, and the next group of Gen X and Y lesbians in the world. I smile as they quote Virginia Woolf, and I spend countless hours listening to their hopes and dreams for the future. Sometimes these young wild women tease me for my stuffed shirt ways, and it makes me smile. One time a young woman said “Are you a republican?” If you live long enough even the radicals are mistaken for conservatives. It must have been the monogramed shirt, what do your think? :-)

    Love talking and sharing and having a good time tonight Debbie. The sun is setting outside my window through the trees, the house is quiet and I’m dreaming of a world where women are presidents, and people really get each other once in awhile.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    “To me, a lot of people are opportunists in this so-called culture war.”

    With that, I certainly agree. And “ideological isolation” is another problem. Yes, it’s an unexpected blessing to be able to “get each other once in a while.”

    Audrey, I have a feeling some folks reading this blog today are getting an “education” they could not have anticipated. You have certainly spiced up my reading. Yes, it’s been a trip.

    I also think that if a cross-section of America could be locked up in a room with you for an hour or two (I’m smiling just to imagine such a scenario), they would come out re-examining some of their paradigms.

    You and I represent two very different ideologies, but the mere fact that we can engage in respectful conversation has to say something. It only takes a little imagination to get where someone is coming from. Are folks afraid they will “catch” something by doing that momentarily just to chat with another human being? :)

  • Audrey

    Yes, Debbie, I think people are afraid to “catch something” if they try to talk to people.

    I was very serious when I talked about ideological isolation, because it has been a trend in the U.S. for a long time. What this means, is that people seem proud of the fact that they don’t know any republicans, or don’t know anyone who voted for Bush or fill in the blank. You should have seen me defending Sarah Palin on feminist blogs. I got really mad at how she was trashed by them. Isn’t feminism simply about the support and advancement of women? That’s all it means to me.

    A colleague and I used to compare notes on how ideological divides are created so that each side can raise money. I’d bring in all my lesbian and gay fundraising letters, and he’d bring in his republican stuff. He was a member of the christian coalition, and I was a radical lesbian feminist. We were both christians. We’d laugh at all the scare tactics used by each side to get money. Unless you compare notes, you’ll never really know how you could be manipulated by political action committees.

    It’s useful to know this.

    One time my partner showed up on an infamous film called I think “The Gay Agenda.” This film was a right wing money raiser for years, and it would use outrageous footage of gay pride parades and even the protest at the 1993 lesbian and gay march on Washington. There she was on stage in a scary right wing film. We watched the film once, and it was too scary ever to view again.

    Anyway, just a few side notes.

    Debbie, I must say, I truly enjoy talking to you. I hope we can discuss our christian experiences as well. We really need to bring people together now, and could easily do this in America if we wanted to. I’m old enough now to know that I won’t be be turned into a stepford wife, and you are old enough to know you won’t become a radical lesbian by buying coffee at the wrong starbucks :-)

  • Jon Trouten

    I was at the 1993 March with a group from my college. Wonder if I showed up in “The Gay Agenda”?

  • Audrey

    Hi Jon,

    “The Gay Agenda” for those out there who don’t know about it, was a right wing attack video. It came out in the early 90s, and was probably funded by the infamous “Focus on the Family.” They seem to fund all the really yucky stuff out there. Anti-gay spies actually came to our events, filmed them, and then made a “sensational” attack video.

    We should ask about the funding for this blog and foundation as well. Not to be overly paranoid, but I believe in knowing who is funding what.

    Jon, if you were on stage with the Rev. Troy Perry at the protest in front of the IRS building at the 1993 March, then you might see yourself on the film.
    The event was titled “The Wedding” and Rev. Perry married about 5000 lesbian and gay couples there. They did all kinds of touching things like draw giant chalk hearts on the sidewalks with ‘Susan Loves Judy” or “Jonathan Loves David” etc. It was one of MCC’s most popular events ever.

    “The Gay Agenda” also contains the usual shots of Gay Freedom parades with drag queens. They have menacing music on the film, and make fun of the costumes and our community. It’s the usual slander one comes to expect from the religious right.
    They rarely show all the gay and lesbian religious groups marching, the gay chamber of commerce in it’s little trolly car, or PLAG… but never mind.
    The nightly news ignores the dull people marching… oh well.

  • Audrey

    Some of our senior radical lesbian feminists are somewhat bemused by the whole issue of “gay marriage.” Years ago, this visionary group of women dreamed of a world where a concept of property ownership like marriage would not be in the best interests of lesbians.

    They even wearily shrugged their shoulders and said, “Geez, in our day, we were out to overthrow patriarchy, and now the best ideas your generation can come up with are marriage and gays in the military?!” Sheesh! The woman who was quoted saying this in a New York Times article on radical lesbian separatism was amazed at how conservative the gay movement had actually become. “The military!” Eeek.

    Even as a young child, I found the position of women in marriage entirely horrifying. I’d read a list of names of married couples at our church: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith donate flowers to…, Mr. and Mrs. David Gallagher donate X dollars in memory of…. What shocked me as a thinking child of about 10 was the complete erasure of a woman’s identity in marriage. She lost her last name, and even her first name was erased in these “honorifics.”

    What is perplexing to me is the reflection on marriage itself. Even without trying very hard, I was completely committed to my partner, when there was no marriage for lesbians, and in fact, back in the dinosaur days when we met, there were no other out lesbians. We were committed to each other because we loved each other, but we also loved so much about how we could be together as two highly intelligent women who wanted to be taken very seriously 24 hours a day. Lesbians love high seriousness. We can talk about radical separatism or assimilationists till 1:00 AM We exhaust all straight people with our deadly serious driven political discussions. Believe me, we love this. Striaght men just drown in boredom. They seemed bored with most things women have to say actually.

    We took our lives seriously, even if the straight world was rather clueless about our existence as a couple. As serious intellectual lesbian feminists, we found the ways straight couples related to each other a bit suspect.

    I well remember one comic dinner party for a straight couple we had met through a mutual friend. There were the four of us, and we had a lot of professional and political things in common. At one point, the wife got up and went into the kitchen. My partner and I looked at each other. “What do we do now,” we thought. Somehow, my more socially perceptive partner figured it out. Straight people often try to make lesbians fit into their narrowly constructed gender stereotypes, but that never works for us.
    I look big and tough, but am actually poetic and detached at times. My partner appears to be “quiet and meek” but can out negotiate any man. She’s so tough minded that she can say “No” to the poor little boy going door to door selling chocolate for the school soccer club. I have to hide in the side room, because I’d just give in and buy the chocolates.

    Well, anyway, socially perceptive partner figures it out. So she gets up and goes into the kitchen and then the man brings up all kinds of strange topics, like what I thought of the football team, and what sound systems I favored. Notoriously out of it when it comes to just about all pop culture and especially professional sports, which I HATE, I didn’t know what to say.
    Heck, I can’t even find the switch these days to turn a “sound system on.”
    “What Boz, a river in Bosnia?”

    Later we figured out the strangeness of it all. “Hey, that’s what hetero couples do, the woman goes in the kitchen, the men talk football!” Eureka!
    We had a good laugh over this.

    At lesbian parties, we’d all be in the kitchen arguing who we liked better Joni Mitchel or Meg Christian, or a debate on some radical issue of the day.
    Socialist feminists would be getting on our case for selling out! But people didn’t separate into male / female “roles”– they acted together as a collective whole. In lesbian culture, we were so delighted just to be with each other without having to deal with an oppressive heteronormative world. It can be completely exhausting, as our black friends always tell us about how relieved they are to go home at night and NOT have to deal with white people!

    So now, with all this talk of gay and lesbian marriage rights… well, I feel wistful, to tell you the truth. Call us the old dinos from another lesbian era, but somehow isn’t marriage what the boring heteros do? Isn’t it the male insecurity to control his wife’s child bearing years? Isn’t having kids what heteros do?

    What I fear is that lesbian culture and collectivity will disappear, as the sisters move out into the isolating suburbs and nest. Yikes, baby toys in the driveway!! It’s a truly scary thought.

    And then what of the poor beleaguered heteros? Their institution of marriage is a disaster area, and I found out that the group that is divorcing the fastest are women in their late 50s after their last kids leave the house.
    They then realize just how horrifying that man really was, or the man simply had no interest in the wife’s growing excitement about a new career or new skills or just the renaissance that is about older women coming into their own. Ever notice the vibrance and aliveness of straight women in their 50s, and then you meet the husbands. Yikes, they look like half dead old men, ugly even. Are they really the same age or do hetero men just start looking like old men because they are worn out by it all? Guys in my office already seem like the living dead at times, worn out, knowing they will have to work till the day they die.

    Are gay people simply using marriage as a tool to be treated decently in the world? Straight people have treated my partner and me like the morning trash for decades now. We routinely get bad service in restaurants, have people give us mean looks… not fun. Now that gay marriage has gone national, so many straight people are actually asking kindly, “How’s your partner, congratulations on Iowa, we’re so sorry Prop 8 won, when are you getting married?” I’m not kidding. For over 30 years, not a peep out of the heteros at all, and now the neighbors next door are asking “When are you going to get married?” Heck, the whole neighborhood group went to a lesbian wedding last summer…. all happy as could be. Heteros at a lesbian wedding! This was almost too much for little old lesbian separatist me! Acceptance and love! Shock, what should I do!!!???

    I wondered. What if straight conservatives really started being nice to lesbians and gays? What a lot of lesbians have told me, is that they want the social validation that comes with marriage. Never having had this, my partner and I were nevertheless delighted with a lesbian feminist life, where we lived our ideals, traveled the world, and could laugh over obscure feminist references. We loved each other, and we felt god had blessed our union as well. Somehow, we just thought god got it, and heteros just didn’t.

    What if straight conservatives invited us to their homes for dinner? What if the husbands cooked the dinner? Or what if a straight couple came along to our little lesbian group? If consrevatives stopped the hatred, maybe gay activists wouldn’t use marriage as an in your face issue.

    I know I shouldn’t be saying this, but sometimes I get a peculiar feeling that gay activists just want to rile up the heteros. Gay men we knew never gave a damn about committed lesbian couples. The Advocate never before carried stories of all the lesbian and gay couple in America who had been together for eons. No before it was always, sex, parties, the good life, but never…. shock…. monogamy! That is a taboo concept in the gay world! Everything else gets its due in our magazines… BDSM… great… multiple partners coooll, but a committed relationship with one great love…. decadent, we don’t want to talk about it at all! That’s the way it used to be, now they trot out the “married respectable gays” — they hide the orgy guys away, trying to persuade the straight world about how worthy and “normal” we are. But we are not normal at all, and wouldn’t want to be. That’s for heteros.

    It’s why I see it as more complicated. I know I know, I should be going along with the activists…marriage rights yeah yeah yeah… But what if straight marriage is almost over the cliff? What if straight people give up on their own little institution out of despair? Sometimes, when I meet all these divorced straight people, I feel a certain degree of sadness. I meet the kids, I see the looks of loss on their faces. What could I do to help support my straight married friends, how could I honor their lives? They sometimes ask me what the secret was to our long partnership without the benefit of any social acceptance in the majority world. Heck, even gay men are shocked that we didn’t want to play the field first. No thanks.

    Straight couples ask us what the secret is, and I don’t know what to say.
    “Learn lesbian feminist theory?”… Hmmm, read Mary Daly? Hmm, treat each other as equals in everything, and have separate friends as well as friends in common? Share cooking equally, live simply, avoid decadent mainstream straight culture? Have a great intellectual life and read lots of books together? Get a big dog? What could the answer be? We think god really helped us, when the world didn’t care. We really felt the presense of god in our relationship, and my partner has a very close personal relationship/mystical with Jesus. He actually talks to her often. Who would have guessed this? Who could explain this?

    What could I do to make families better in America? I have a lot of love to share, I’m happy to support the mother across the street when she needs it. I talk to kids, and show them love. But I still don’t know why straight people are in such terrible trouble with their marriages. Maybe their crisis is what causes them to be so angry at us. They blame us for everything. Or they blame feminists for everything, but feminism is what makes my partnership strong and intellectually dynamic. Hey, I got it, straight men could become feminists! :-) No, that’s not it :-)

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Audrey, your openness and honesty here are quite compelling. Thank you for your willingness to share your perspectives. What you are saying may sound shocking to a lot of folks, but not to me. Most folks don't go searching the Internet for stories like yours. I have done that over the past few years because I have a keen — yes, intellectual — interest in the varied social demographics of the gay community. I find you and your life highly interesting. But then, I used to love to hang out in the remote stacks of my college library, looking for obscure books. I love learning still.

    Of course, you may find my old, married life dull by comparison. LOL. But I will have to say that striving to understand (and be understood by) a man who loves me and raising two daughters to adulthood has been a grand adventure, too. I think being a grandmother is going to be a neat thing. Another phase in life. I can spoil the "grands" and have some payback. :)

    I especially appreciate your candid assessment (or wondering out loud) of the dynamics of the gay marriage push, etc. I have wondered some of the same things, but it is far less disingenuous for someone like you to ruminate about it. There are lots of questions begging for answers. I have wondered, even written about lately, the tit-for-tat anger in the gay culture war. It seems both sides are doing some baiting.

    Anyway, I hope others appreciate your honesty. You do express a few overly stereotypical views of men — not all are sports freaks and many are great cooks, as I'm sure you know. But lesbian feminism is a culture all its own, again, with some defiance of stereotypes. It's no great mystery that strong, intellectual women would seek each other out for lifelong companionship. We need healthy same-sex friendships, married or not.

    Yes, men and women sometimes drive each other nuts, but marriage takes empathy and give-and-take, 24/7. If we place our spouses' needs above our own, amazing things happen. I wouldn't trade my life for any other, same as you.

    It breaks my heart that so many couples are selfishly allowing their marriages to erode, especially when there are so many great resources out there to help them today. Both our daughters and husbands/fiances have been counseled prior to marriage by the couple that essentially started the Covenant Marriage movement. We are blessed to be that close to them.

  • Jon Trouten

    I have little to add to any of this, but to assure you both that my interest in legally marrying has nothing to do with "riling up the heteros", nor have I found that to be the case with the others in my life. I'm tiring of the ongoing snide comments about gay men. Let's just say that I personally know fewer gay men who are committed to marrying or raising kids than lesbians, but those gay men in my life who've made those committed appear to be experiencing a higher level of success at maintaining those families than the lesbians in my life, who seem to go through periodic lesbian partner do si dos every few years.

    What's so difficult for folks (be they separatist lesbians or evangelical Christians) to accept that gay men and women genuinely desire the rights and the responsibilities of legal marriage? Not for the purposes of aggrevating the heterosexual majority, but to express and practice love, commitment, and protection for our chosen spouses, not to mention any children in our lives. Yes, there are gay people who treat marriage like an insincere game, but there are straight people who do the same.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Fair enough, Jon. I do not question the genuine sincerity of folks like you in seeking marriage benefits. It is perfectly understandable. It so shakes up the norm for most of society that it has led to some unsubstantiated fears and some legitimate concerns that need to be addressed.

  • Jon Trouten

    How can those fears and concerns be addressed?

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Big, big question, Jon. It is going to take time and a lot of what we are doing here — giving each other space to talk and filter out what is a genuine concern and what isn't.

  • Kevin

    Audrey,

    After taking a while to read through all of your comments, I just wanted to say thanks as they were enlightening. As one who does not "know the life stories of all the great lesbian pastors in America" I was wondering if you happened to have any book recommendations pertaining to prominent lesbian Christians throughout history. I have been reading some books on gay and lesbian history, but they tend to gravitate towards highlighting the lives of gay men and Christianity is rarely mentioned (generally speaking) as it is often taboo or seen as a force that is to be subverted or ignored completely due to the detrimental impact it has had on the GLBT community at large.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Well, Audrey, I'm worn out. You win the talking contest. :)

    Peace.

  • Audrey

    Hi Kevin!

    Let's see, what historical period do you mean for lesbians in the church?

    The reason I ask what era, is that there are some historical limitations.

    Out lesbian pastors didn't emerge in America until the early 1970s. If you look at the history of women's missionary movements — 19th century, or medieval times, you can gain clues about the life of christian lesbians of those eras. Hildeguard of Bingen being one likely example. Sister Juana de La Cruz of 17th century Mexico are a couple.

    I'd say, in terms of christian lesbian innovators and leaders, there are many who have written extraordinary books. Most of the time, lesbian historicans have completely written off christianity as beyond the pale about male supremacy, and it is. So there are many lesbians who write brilliant critiques of the church, and an analysis of what lesbian freedom would really look like.

    Needless to say, if you are a christian lesbian, you are actually a minority within a minority. Many powerful formerly christian lesbians became lesbian separatists and rejected everything about christianity. Sonia Johnson is a powerful writer in "From Housewife to Heratic" and Mary Daly's autobiography "Outercourse" charts the making of a foundational and essential source of christian feminist critique. Naturally Daly would call herself post christian. Emily Culpepper is post christian, but they all write well.

    Here's a few classic authors: Rev. Carter Heyward, Mary Hunt, Mary Daly (the greatest lesbian philosopher alive today), Virginia Ramey Mollenkott "Is the Homosexual My Neighbor"– this groundbreaking book came out in the 70s. Rev. Nancy Wilson covered things well in "Our Tribe" and CLOUT — Christian Lesbians Out Together is a great resource group and brings together lesbians of all Christian denominations.

    The bulk of most gay history, is the history of men. Women write their own history, and religion sadly gets left out of "mainstream' gay communal thought. Christians have been the clear enemy of lesbians for so many years, so lesbian community leaders just formed new groups. I'd say that most lesbians have an ambivilent relationship with malestream christian writing– it's all about men all the time. I can't even read men's books anymore they are so filled with sexism and lesbian absense. And to listen to men preach makes me sick actually. I can't stand the sexism, the arrogance, I just can't listen to those men talk! Yuck.

    Gay men are more enthusiastic in these faith traditions, because they had access to male privilege as pastors, ordained priests etc. They get published and well paid church jobs. Lesbians are on the margins, and dominate more in academia, women's colleges and women's studies departments, which tend to have utter contempt for male supremacy so pervasive in all churches.

    But, Carter Heyward, Mary Hunt and Kittredge Cherry provide powerful christian testimonies of the lesbian christian journey in all its complexity.

    A certain generation of lesbians had nothing to do with men, and we forged our own groups. Younger people might be more integrated, but this is almost always at the expense of lesbian intellectual virtuosity. Like women's elite colleges in America, the lesbian feminist christian tradition holds the most power and support for the dream of a lesbian self in the world.

    If you do searches of evangelical missionary women, you can read between the lines to find lesbians everywhere. Women who never marry throughout time leave clues. It's kind of a detective story, and only the cleverest can uncover the lesbian past Kevin. Best of luck to you.

    Also, if you access the Metropolitan Community Churches website, I believe Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson who heads the denomination, has sermons that can be heard online. MCC probably has the greatest number of lesbian women pastors of any denomination in America, and possibly the world.

    Just listening to what these women say about god is so inspiring.

    While gay men pay lipservice to this great tradition of lesbian feminist leadership, they tend to not know much about actual lesbians, and lesbians don't appear as major characters in any of their books.

    I believe this separatism is essential in developing a thealogy completely free of male supremacy, male domination and male control of the debate and discussion.

  • Audrey

    Both of your above posts are excellent. Every change causes push back from the majority. I don’t know why straight people feel so threatened by lesbian and gay civil rights, but they do. Not long ago, the good old homophobes like Dobson et. al. said NO to any lesbian or gay civil rights.
    Now they are backtracking and saying ok, “you can call it civil unions, but don’t say it’s marriage” back of the bus stuff. I found their backtracking amusing. They remind me of the white racists when civil rights became the law of the land. They still are racists, they just pretend to support black civil rights, grudgingly. I know they hate the living guts out of gay men, and are patriarchal idiots about all women straight or lesbian. I think those really virilent homophobic men are simply not being honest about how they were raped by uncles and fathers, and this is the real source of hatred towards gay men. I say gay men here, because all right wing anti-gay words are about men. Lesbians are invisible :-(

    But there you have it. Since hetero marriage is going down, and its family structure falling to pieces… and us gays and lesbians are forced to deal with gang bangers, teenagers out of control and poorly educated hetero children all the time…. well yes, it’s weird that we are such a topic of activism, when hetero families are falling apart because of advanced capitalism, and stagnant wages, and also, when women are given economic choices they will dump old charlie the wife beater, and escape to freedom from male abuse in the home.

    It’s why you don’t see hundreds of domestic violence shelters that men run to, as they escape women punching them to pieces. It’s why a main cause of killed babies is men who batter pregnant women. Check the stats on this, it’s truly shocking. Men bomb abortion clinics… right wing rhetoric simply fuels this, as does right wing rhetoric’s role in gay bashing. Just how man wife beating men have killed babies in the womb? Good sermon topic at some evangelical church.

    Families are undergoing change. It’s a big upset in hetero-America. I don’t know much about it, because I’m not in that world really. My family is dull and stable… mixed marriages between christians and Jews seem to really work for us :-)

    I am dull in my daily life, but passionate about the life of the mind. Debbie, I bet I am duller than you are :-)

    I don’t know why the kids down the street can barely read.

    But I do know it’s easy to target lesbians and gays and blame us for the “decline” of the American family. If only we had that kind of power. Hey I moved to my neighborhood because it had terrible schools, and thus, it meant that almost no straight people with children would ever move nearby. True story. Straight people without children are actually more like us, and straights at weddings or with children direct the most hostility our way for some reason. Anyway… a bad school system was a benefit to us.
    Not good, but it benefits us here weirdly enough.

    Gay marriage is really a done deal. Like the racists of the 1930s, that kind of in your face anti-gay sentiment will be hard for the next generation to maintain. So I guess I’m not worried. The reason is simple: three “best friends” came out to Andrew, and then he couldn’t maintain the homophobia. He still believes gays are inferior to straights and that men are superior to women, that’s what is in him. But he is trying to reach out to gay men, and that is more radical. Straight women and gay men have long been best friends, but straight men beat and kill gay men. Lesbians don’t go around killing and beating up straight women.

    Again, we had a holy union purely for love. It was not legal, there was no larger social approval at all, and as our pastor said back in 1987, “the only difference between straight weddings and lesbian and gay commitment ceremonies is that straights get a lot more gifts.” We laughed at this at the time.

    We don’t use the term “wife” to refer to each other, just spouse sometimes, life partner… “wife” is just too horrific a term. “Domestic partner” is a term I use to placate or be comprehensible to straights, but I don’t like or use the term in our house. It seems technical and legal rather than loving.

    In case you haven’t guessed, I am VERY fussy about language. Very conscious of words, and I use vocabulary to detect a wide variety of things.

    Needless to say, we did not get social approval for this ceremony, and so it was done for the best of motives. We did it for ourselves, and because we believe god connected to us. My partner eventually became an ordained minister, and all of this had to do with the acceptance we felt for us as a couple at our MCC. In the 80s, the world really rejected us, we were left to fend for ourselves. Imagine going to high school and having no people like yourself there? Imagine the prom and no lesbians at all? Straight people can’t even begin to imagine what privilege they have and approval they have just for holding hands in public.

    Wow, if you only knew. But you will never know. I like it when straight people finally admit that they cannot possibly know what it is like to be lesbian in America. What appears to be so natural to straight people strikes lesbians as sexist, dreadful and degrading to women. We find so much about the straight world completely and utterly offensive, and that’s how straight people see us. We can easily detest each other. Debbie is right, we can be snobs, we can degrade uneducated straight people, we can make fun of them. It’s pretty easy to defeat straight men in debates, but is it right? We can take on a moral superiority out of self-preservation, but it is not healthy or right to do this. That is a temptation of the devil for me to endlessly attack straight people. It is a joy that is not good or healthy or even christian. I have a greater temptation to be the snob or the intellectual superior… well that is a huge temptation and sin I fall into.
    Being sexually attracted to a married man is simply not a reality, so easy to be morally superior about something you won’t do. Kind of like giving up castor oil for Lent :-()

    Now if you were straight, and you felt attracted to someone of the same sex, or you were a guy and were raped in childhood by a gay man or a pedofile priest or your minister, well, you might be a little more freaked out by gays and lesbians than would be the norm for completely straight married couples. Some straight couples are completely ok with us, others feel distant or fearful. Straight men learn the hard way if they mess with us.

    I know that with each passing generation, things change. Younger people have lots of lesbian and gay friends now. In college and high school, I was completely closeted, so even my “closest” friends did not know me at all. They thought they did. We have an uncanny ability to present a false and deception “personna” to the world. It is not good to do this, but truth can get you killed in some quarters.

    Will using the word “gay marriage’ really affect straight people? I doubt it.
    Evangelical churches already refuse to perform lesbian and gay unions, we go to MCC, the liberal Episcopal churches, or we do our own innovative ceremonies.

    We believe that evangelical christianity is what it is. I am thankful that I wasn’t raised in that church, and that I had an intellectual Jewish heritage, where cousins housed 1963 March on Washington blacks at their Synogogue, and where a grandmother went to college. My Jewish cousins were some of the first to support me when I first came out of the closet. Jews are great. Recently I went to a Jewish funeral, and not once was “male” god used in the service. To my delight, the entire service was gender inclusive, and even the relative of the diseased proudly wore a suit and tie… the “real” lesbians that so freak out straight women :-)

    I felt completely at home in this place, and feminism was mentioned in the service. It was a lovely place.

    Evangelical women, however, wrote the first christian feminist magazine I came across in the early 80s. So it was evangelical straight women who first introduced me to the concept of feminist christianity, believe it or not. Not lesbians! Let’s give credit where credit is due here. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott was the first lesbian feminist christian who was “bible believing.” She’s a solid conservative evangelical, and a great mentor to all lesbians. So there is an evangelical tradition within lesbian feminism.

    So I’m wandering here, but a lot of evangelicals probably have never heard of Virginia or her personal story. They probably don’t know the life stories of all the great lesbian pastors in America.

    Lesbian christian tradition is about us finding a culture within a culture.
    Each christian community throughout time has been the center of something new…. Jewish early christians reaching out to gentiles, uncircumsized men getting to go to services… first century innovation.

    We had a lot of self-hating gays who went through electric shock treatment and exocism, but still they were gay. I hope no gay or lesbian person ever has to do that to themselves again, so that’s why it’s important for lesbian christians to speak up.

    All great marriages complement one another. Complementarity is not divided up along sex lines for us, it is divided up along personal skills and abilities or interests. No one tells a lesbian couple “You be the “man” and “You be the “woman.” Hetero bigots might ask a stupid question like that, but it wouldn’t compute to your average big city 21st century lesbian couple. We just are.

    Perhaps men and women are just more stuck in their ways, or have to be told what to do to know what to do. The whole culture is structured around the myth of sex roles, and to many of us, sex and gender presentation are simply not the same thing.

    So much of gender costuming has to do with heterosexual norms, and marriage is about these same social roles as well. This is so deeply engrained in hetero-reality that the hetero fish can literally never know they are in water.

    A fully conscious lesbian couple simply does not fit into this at all, and finds most of this cultural baggage suspect. I find it hard to believe that women would willingly want to give up their last names to the man’s family name, but for many women, they just do this without a thought.

    It is hard to say what is a true human self, and what is cultureally controlled and forced by male dominant norms. I know that I am far stronger physically than most straight women, am capable of knocking a man down in a fight, fully capable of shoving a man out of my way. I see straight women harassed all the time by men, but afraid to fully haul off and deck them. They cringe in silence while men insult them. I see this all the time, and wonder, “wow.”

    To be in the closet is to be fearful. To be out is to be a woman of courage.
    To stand up to an entire social system because you want freedom will earn you a statue if you are George Washington, but if you’re a lesbian like Susan B. Anthony, the world erases your inner life even now.

    Eventually, gay rights will out. Lesbians are becoming better situated in the work world. One study says we earn more than straight women… And we are more socially poised and better educated than ever before. Now lesbians are scientists, lawyers, priests, a generation ago they were teachers or maybe even nuns.

    Time works in the favor of groups who are committed to their own liberation, it works to the advantage of liberation, and it works to the disadvantage of all those who want to limit freedom or negate the human soul. America looks ridiculous when it passes a prohibition amendment to the constitution, the only such limitation of freedom that was ever attempted in that document. However, 19th century women were in favor of the amendment because their drunk husbands used up the paycheck, beat them, terrorized their children, and they wanted alcohol gone! What would you do in 1884 if your husband drank and beat you? Where would you go, how would you save your children?

    Was prohibition a limitation of freedom, or did it simply attempt to stop drunken abusive men? Men made fun of the “temperance movement” just as they make fun of “women’s libbers.” Men don’t like women standing up to them and protecting themselves. The unchecked power of men simply makes them fat heads and clueless. As much as I enjoy putting these fat head men in their place, sometimes I think there should be more social pressure on them to actually learn to have real conversations with lesbians.
    Since I was fortunate enough to be able to go out into the business world, take seminars and learn, the man has no such social training. Were would he learn about women other than from a male dominant perspective?

    Think of the louts whose wives drag them to the opera. The women come alive as I chat with them pleasantly. They introduce me to their louts, and the louts stare off in silence, unable to even discuss the opera they have just seen. Used to being workaholic “providers” they become socially stiffled old men before their time. Would men want something better than this, or are they still content to be the louts and lords and masters the bible ordains? Can straight men change without some law making them do it?

    Would some straight guy ever be able to talk about god the mother?
    Are straight people so weak and paranoid that they’d actually believe lesbian and gay marriage would ruin their own families? Or is there another force out there doing this, an economic force, a profit motive, the destruction of middle class workers?

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Just one more observation, Audrey.

    Since I live and move in a different "world" from yours, for the most part — one that allows me to easily observe husbands and wives interacting and being parents — I lament that we don't celebrate more the highly successful marriages and families all around us. They don't clamor for attention or celebrate "Family Pride Day," so maybe they just humbly remain under the radar, quietly influencing those around them. In the body of Christ, we are meant to edify one another, of course, so these families sharpen and encourage one another.

    It is sad that so much focus is on the failings of families today. Those men you so distrust are expected to carry the weight of the world upon their shoulders as heads of their homes. I believe God meant for them to be the primary leaders. Someone has to be the head, otherwise confusion reigns. It doesn't bother me one whit that woman was created out of man, according to the Genesis story. Do I get to tell God He did it wrong? Pretty laughable.

    I like my role as a woman, wife and mother very much. God doesn't hold me responsible in the same way He (in all three parts) does my husband. But we are expected to complete each other, to be partners in every sense of the word, and to be in submission to God together. My husband needs my respect and I need his love and protection. Yes, I like being protected by a strong man. It does not make me weak. I have my own identity and am quite secure in it. My pastors listens to me and appreciates me. He is happy to have me involved in ministry within our church. I am not a doormat. I also am a leader in the home. If my husband is the CO (commanding officer), then I am the XO (executive officer). It works.

    All the mistakes men have made in past cultures which caused the oppression of women were certainly not God-designed. Fallen man has just modeled the first rebel of record, who wanted to be like God. In fact, if you read Genesis, you will see that we are operating under a curse from God: "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." I surmise you don't like that God did that. Who does? But He's God, and you and I aren't. God didn't like the people He created disobeying Him.

    If God kicked Lucifer out of heaven, why would He sanction human mimicry of his rebellion? He means for men and women to form a bond that perfectly reflects His image. But we labor under the curse. Not without hope, however, thanks to the plan of redemption through Jesus Christ.

    There is much in you that is admirable, Audrey. Your intellect is a gift from God. But it is still quite limited in the grand scheme of things, as is mine. We have our moment in history. And then we are gone. I want the dash in my life to be a statement of love, honor and praise to God, and one of hope to my fellow man/woman.

    End of sermon. God bless.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    "I can’t listen to men talk about the bible. They make me nuts, I can’t listen to their preachy voices. Makes me nuts, and they are such puffed up bores most of the time. However, I am interested in the sermons of women."

    Audrey, in your view, do men have the freedom to say the same thing about women and their "preachy voices"? If not, why not? Isn't what's fair for the goose fair for the gander?

    Do feminists want to make men pay for their sins of oppression? Do they want to be judge and jury, or maybe let God handle it ("Vengeance is mine, saith the LORD")? Where do we draw the line in anger ("Be angry, but do not sin")? Is there any possibility of harmony in this picture you hold onto? Or are men just doomed. "For God so loved the world …" but not the men? Can men be redeemed? Are men today are being horsewhipped for the sins of their forebears?

    "I had to laugh at your wanting to be protected by a husband. Somehow I can’t imagine an ex-Marine needing to be protected by anyone!"

    I am a woman, not as physically strong as a man. Scientific fact. I can protect myself to a point (with brains and some brawn and a gun), but I want a man fighting the tough battles. I am wired primarily to be a nurturer, not a warrior. Hollywood is on crack in its depictions of men and women.

    My 2 cents.

  • Audrey

    Hi Debbie, thanks again for your thoughtful replies. I won’t get into a bible debate with you, because I’m not a bible scholar. I read a lot, and I think a lot. I can’t listen to men talk about the bible. They make me nuts, I can’t listen to their preachy voices. Makes me nuts, and they are such puffed up bores most of the time. However, I am interested in the sermons of women.

    Do we celebrate families in America? Well, we often talk about disasters in families, but I think you’re right.

    I believe some psychologists actually are doing research on successful straight marriages, and have findings of interest. Heck, my straight friends often come to me for marriage advice. Who would have guessed that would happen?

    As for Genesis, well my favorite part of it is “male and female god created them.” So there are many versions of that story, and also if we model male supremacy, we are actually modeling the fall not the resurrection.
    It is in sin that men dominated women, and it certainly wasn’t the message of Jesus at all.

    I had to laugh at your wanting to be protected by a husband. Somehow I can’t imagine an ex-Marine needing to be protected by anyone! :-) My partner and I protect each other, and take turns. She can tell off a door to door salesman in a minute, I can demand better service at a restaurant. She can hire contractors and boss them around, I’m better at financial wheeling and dealing on the phone. I am physically stronger and can beat up enemies, my partner is better at negotiating and is completely non-violent.

    I just laugh at all this head of household stuff, it is so silly to us. We don’t cater to male egos, don’t hide things from each other. I talk to quite a few heterosexual couples and am amazed at how they hide things from each other, won’t confide in each other, it is very odd.

    So the bible doesn’t tell women to boss each other around, doesn’t create hierarchies within lesbian partnerships, doesn’t speak about lesbians very much at all. We are in the bible, but heteros like to cover up our existence, just like they used to terrorize lesbians and gays to keep us hidden and in our place.

    The thing is Debbie, we represent two very different cultural and historical traditions. To me the bible speaks strongly about the liberation of the oppressed, the Jews leaving Egypt, the devotion of Ruth and Naomi. I don’t take the bible literally at all, and think a lot of it is metaphor and fable.
    And as a person made in god’s own image, I have a lesbian take on diety, and what this could mean.

    If we look at straight and lesbian existence as essentially about very different human experiences, rather than as one being “abnormal” and the other one being “normal,” I think the culture war would be irrelevant.

    In our society where opposition creates absurdity, it is a supreme irony that christians started their war on gays and lesbians. Our side uses the rhetoric of Dobson et. al. to raise funds, and to fan the flames of separation. It’s klnd of like mainstream feminism rallying the troops so to speak because some nutcase killed an abortion doctor. There are lots of religious nuts out there, but it is about craziness not about christianity per se.

    So what would happen if we shared our lives, and were just honest about who we are, and how we find god in our lives Debbie?

    I can safely say that no heterosexual couples inherently offend me. No one in my neighborhood is mean, except in a “mean” way that has nothing to do with me personally.

    When Proposition 8 was big in California, I kind of knew it would be a close election. I tried to see a larger reality in it. What I saw was all my straight neighbors putting out “NO on 8″ signs on their front lawns. Every time I would drive to work, I’d go past all these “No on 8″ signs, and to me it was the first visual representation of straight neighbors saying, “hey we support your marriage, we love you, we support you.” Never having experienced this visual representation is such a massive way before, I was very touched by it.

    I can’t explain this rationally, I’m only talking emotionally Debbie. It wasn’t even about politics or whether 8 would be defeated or not.

    My partner runs a lesbian and gay christian website, and I try to help with ideas for it. We’ve had so much inspiration from the vision of this, the miracle of it. It’s artistic, powerful, might be a bit challenging for evangelicals, but it is special. Anyway, I suggested that we grab the camera, and go around the neighborhood taking pictures of the signs and then writing a kind of thank you to our neighbors article. This was several weeks after the passage of proposition 8. Our side was really mad, but the No signs just stayed up, even weeks later.

    “We’d better take pictures of those signs before they come down,” I said.
    Anyway, I wrote my thank you article, we put some photos in, and I even wrote a thank you post to the entire neighborhood email group that we have here. Sure I could have blasted the yes people, but I thought, hey, let’s say thanks for what the emotional support meant to my partner and me.

    It is this emotional support I think that conservative christians don’t get at all. They will insist that we are sinners and that are relationships are sinful, and this constant bashing of our deepest and most sacred relationships is ungodly and unholy. It is morally wrong, and yet straight conservatives will persist with this.

    Even though I believe heterosexual marriage is not the greatest for a lot of women, I wouldn’t say it is sinful nor would I abolish it or vote it down. I would look at the quality of love, to paraphrase Shakespeare. If a husband is beating a wife, well that is wrong. It doesn’t mean heterosexuality is wrong, it just means the husband is a criminal. Not the same thing.

    Anyway, as I said before, I am ambivilent about the whole gay marriage movement. I don’t see marriage rights as the answer to what I believe lesbians and gay people should be about, but I do realize that a lot of people want outside validation. I am unused to outside validation of any kind. I live in a world where people make me invisible and who don’t really want to welcome me in a meaningful way. It is a huge culture that I feel detached from at best and abused by at worst.

    However, we have to look at symbols, and the No on 8 signs were symbolic of something completely new. Visible straight support for me and my partner, neighbors coming to the wedding of our lesbian neighbors down the street, all of this came about because of the “No on 8″ campaign. It was our personal fall of love, so to speak, even though we “lost” the sentiment remained, the love of the neighbors remained. My straight allies were shocked at the passage of 8. “Wow, there really are homophobes out there!” one woman said. Sometimes straight people are shocked at how hated our community really is, they don’t see it or believe it. Just like most whites don’t know what racism does to the black community. If it isn’t directed at you, then you can’t believe it exists.

    Just ask a transgender person about this — a man who become a woman, then has to face the world of women. It often comes as a huge shock for them to experience sexism as a woman, compared to how they were treated as a man. It is always good to get these insights, because otherwise we will live in a world of injustice and do nothing about it.

    To me, my partnership is not a political issue. We had our commitment ceremony, and we don’t intend to ever do that again. We are partners in the eyes of god, and to each other. We have no “domestic partnership” we have no “marriage” we have no state intervention in our life. We do get the usual legal documents so that we have medical power of attonrey, and life policies etc. But we are old fashioned lesbians who don’t believe in the state saying anything at all about us. We define ourselves.

    This is kind of long winded. I don’t know how long the culture war will go on. Racism is still there, sexism is still there, anti-lesbian erasure is still there. Our civil rights are coming through bit by bit. Nothing progessive happens overnight. Our purpose first is to come completely out of the closet so that parents know their lesbian or gay children, so that the world knows we exist. Only then can the mythology and oppression end.

    No straight person on earth had to hide a marriage, or hide the fact that they had an opposite sex partner. Heterosexuality as an institution, is celebrated everywhere. But we as a people celebrate each other, but our true selves and contributions are hidden from view, suppressed, belittled, called sinful… it goes on and on.

    I’m really glad I don’t live in a theocracy. I’m very glad the church is not state sanctioned. I’m getting to the point where I don’t even think churches should be tax exempt if they contribute to political campaigns. But that’s another issue for another time.

  • Audrey

    All I’m saying is Debbie I don’t want to listen to sexism from the pulpit. If men are sexist, I don’t want to listen to them, just as black people won’t go to a church and listen racist whites in pulpits, usually men, by the way.

    Remember, I come from a Catholic background, and women are not ordained as priests. That means men deliberately exclude us from the pulpit, and we are not allowed to officiate. What? women are too weak to lift a communion wafer? Now why on earth would I want to listen to those men ever again? It makes no sense. That’s like going back to a house where your father beats you or degrades you. You don’t return to a place where you are beaten up by words.

    So what I would like is a flourishing lesbian church in America, or a feminist church that grows and serves women. I want a place where I don’t have to deal with sexism or homophobia from anyone really. Just don’t want to put up with it. I imagine a church someday that would be a wonderful lovely place for all lesbians and all women who simply want a place of our own, as big as a cathedral, as lovely as a mansion. Lesbians as a group, because we don’t have access to male wealth, struggle with a lack of resources that benefit us in lovely ways. We don’t own a lot of property, and don’t earn huge amounts of money as a rule. Again, overall here. Younger lesbians who didn’t have to deal with the brutal sexism of my college years who graduate from Harvard or Yale law now are doing well, for example. In my professional training, I was often the only woman in the room. Men controlled the whole damn thing, and I was not very at ease with this. I had to focus on my studies, because I knew the profession would be great as soon as I escaped these male dominated places. Now of course, I can avoid this situation. But in order to get the degree and the special training, that was what I had to put up with. Fortuneately for me, I’m very strong, and the few men that messed with me, I simply challenged to a fight in the parking lot. Wow, they backed down. They stopped. I didn’t have to split their jaws open, they simply stopped the sexist degrading comments and left me alone. That was a huge lesson for me. You really do have to say NO MORE!

    I don’t know if men can be redeamed Debbie. Younger men who come to our office and do product presentations for me never use sexist language ever. Men over the age of 50 are another story. Do women commit such vile crimes against men the equivalent to rape? If women wrote the bible perhaps rapists would be stoned to death by a female god. Reverse everything, and see what crime would be treated in what way.

    So this idea that women are sacred, that our ideas and intellect are to be honored and encouraged is central to me. Since I would never live with men, why would I listen to them if they were sexists? It makes no sense at all. Now should I give more chances to men? How about I give more chances to women? How about supporting women’s ministry, or going to women’s retreats. How about choosing the powerful in the lesbian ministers. It is more the choice of where I would feel the most empowered the most loved and the most understood. Why should I have to sit and listen to a sermon in Chinese when I don’t know that language at all, when I could easily put on a headset and hear the sermon in English? To the male, the male assumption of the gospel is like Chinese to me.

    Why is racism not ok, but blatant sexism fine and dandy? Why is it illegal to not hire a black man, but perfectly legal to not hire a woman?

    There is no logic to this at all. So that’s why I take a very hard line on this.

    Do I feel men can be redeemed? I don’t know exactly. I do know as a class that they do terrible things to women. I know the prisons are filled with millions of men, and that violent crimes are largely their specialty. I do know that a lot of women fear walking in a parking lot late at night, or that they are sexually harassed at the office. I do know that men produce horrifying violent pornography and that it is a muti-billion dollar business. I do know men buy prostitutes and sexually beat them up. You can find out what men do to women by seeing the pornography they make.

    On a right wing talk show, Frank Pastori I think, a male christian minister came on and said a survey at a christian college revealed that 100% of the men viewed Internet porn. 100%. 87% of women viewed it too. Many times men want their girlfriends to watch this with them. I can listen to two gentlemen talk about “Every Man’s Battle” also on right wing christian radio stations. I really admire the men who are fighting to change other men. But those same men think women should be submissive to their husbands, which interestingly enough, is a theme in the very porn they condemn.
    But if I go to learn about god, do I want to also have to study with a man who once watched porn? Would I ever feel safe in a room with such a person? No.

    My partner gets mad at me for these ideas. She thinks I am too mean or vengeful. But I am just calling out the evil of men in the world and what they do. I call them out as a class. I point a spotlight on those men who raped children when they were priests. You don’t hear any stories about catholic nuns raping boys or sexually violating them. Every bishop in America hid these crimes in his diosis, for example. No, you don’t want these men running everything.

    This may be a hard line for even conservative straight women to hear, but I believe that like a black person, I have a right to hear the gospel without one barrier to my full understanding. The minute I hear “he” and “god” my brain simply shuts down. That’s the end of it. When I started to hear god in feminism, and god in lesbian, and the very power of that, my delight was incredible. Wow, what a difference, how exciting, how motivating.

    What do lesbians have to say about god? I must have gone to well over 500 such services, retreats, sermons and small discussion groups where we talked about the word of god. I loved our giant lesbian international christian conference, where we met women from Asia, Germany, South Africa, US, Canada, and India. We ate together, prayed together, listened to incredible lesbian academics and ministers, and panel discussions.
    We had delightful informal talks and cracked up laughing at the Hong Kong and Philippina women who talked about their favorite lesbian movies.
    Not pornography by the way, but real movies about us for once.

    I treasure this experience and still to this day think it was one of the best conferences I ever went to.

    I think straight people take for granted that there are millions of churches just for you. You get so many marriage weekends and marriage books and marriage preparation, and family support. You have giant mega-churches that sing your every praise as great heterosexual people of god.
    You can completely avoid the very sight of lesbians and gays, and completely deny our existence. Some days when I get really disgusted, I think, what would happen if I could have an entire city completely and utterly lesbian? What if every couple on our street was a lesbian couple?
    What if every restaurant welcomed us with open arms?

    One thing we did in MCC now and then, is that when the service began, the minister would say, “Turn to your neighbor and smile and say “God loves you, you’ve come to the right place!” I remember the first few times this happened. I was taken aback by this, shocked by the love, stunned by it. My gay people LOVED me, and I had found the right place. I recall the first sermon by a lesbian minister. It was actually the first MCC sermon I had ever heard in my life. No sexism, just a sister like me, who had an advanced degree, wow, another really smart woman!! I love smart women, I love their passion, their intellects, their complete communion with the feminist mind. I am so excited by this just to write about it. Imagine finally hearing a sermon by a lesbian for the very first time at about age 28. So that means that for 28 years before that day, I had heard only men in pulpits. All male all the time.

    So I think after listening to them for all that time, in my valuable youth, I owe it to myself to listen to women as often as possible. In my old age, I want a lesbian land of my own, a country of my own I guess. Men controlled my youth and education, but now I am free, and I will choose what is in my highest and best interest. I will chose the people who believe I am the best, the brightest, and I want to hear the gospel with women as the central theme, as us as the women of god. After 28 years of the male god talk, I think I want something else now, and I don’t think this is too much to ask Debbie, do you?

  • Audrey

    Actually, a more valid question would be, is it safe for women to be in male dominated evangelical churches? Most women who realized that they weren’t second class citizens anymore left those churches, and created women’s evangelical feminism. They had a magazine a long time ago called “Daughters of Sarah.” Rita Finger was the editor, and Virginia Mollenkott (who was a closeted lesbian at the time) was a contributor.

    That’s how we heard about christian feminism in the early 80s. I think it is a huge reason that my partner became an “official” christian convert, and got baptised. She met another devout lesbian christian at her university, and we felt cared for and listened to. When you’re young women just starting out in life, you need big sisters and mentors to look after you. Many lesbians were never as lucky as my partner and me in this way, and they flounder around uncared for.

    It is my duty as a lesbian elder now, to reach out to this new generation, to put the words out there, to be a beacon of light to lesbian who need to know that god speaks “lesbian” that god absolutely loves her lesbian children to pieces!! Not hedging bets, not through some godfather ganster, but through the powerful lesbian culture and rituals and sisterhood that exists throughout time, place and will go into a mystical eternity, I hope in a lesbian heaven.

    It’s hard to say what led to what, but I believe that little magazine was such a lifeline back in a time, when we as lesbian feminists really hated patriarchy, we were so sick of men, so sick of their power, so sick of them ruling the world. I’m still sick and tired of their arrogant selves running everything, but back then, I was ready to kill in a war of independence :-)

    Later, Mollenkott came out as a lesbian, and it was so exciting to meet her over the years at lesbian christian events, workshops and women’s worship services. A grand old lady of 70-something now, she continues to be so generous and loving to lesbians worldwide. If you have a book idea, or you want her support on a project she is right there with a beautiful handwritten letter of encouragement. I love her, and revere these women as the very few and far between “elders” we have. We don’t have many that’s for sure.

    My partner wrote many books on lesbian christianity, and gay life in general, but who but a lesbian or gay person would care about this work?

    Really, we need our institutions and leaders to CARE about our visions and work, to write those little notes, to be a beacon of hope in a very hostile world.

    My life is so much better because of these people. Really, my greatest ideas, my dreams, my ambitions, and just the adventure of a world where lesbians are central, where our culture is honored… that is huge with us.

    Who wants to be drowned in a sea of uncaring heterosexual culture? We have our own culture, humor and just plain fun. Ultimately, we know most straight people don’t get us, and certainly have ulterior motives… turn the gay people straight, for one. Maybe steal our children too. Yes, lesbians do lose their children, and almost every gay man I ever met who was older lost his children in custody battles. How would you like your children taken away by communists?

    I believe there is a grand purpose to feminist christianity, and women reading the bible for themselves, and not having to “complement” or “helpmeet” anyone. Surely, women can be fully grown adults with innovative ideas of our own. Remember all those times when men’s clubs did everything. Founding FATHERS… no women wrote the constitution… catholic church, all men in an all male Vatican. Even young CNN news guys are shocked when they go there on assignment and look into the camera and say: “Wow, only men are in charge here, there are NO women!” A guy on CNN said this during Pope John Paul II’s funeral. You have to see it to believe it I guess. My partner and I found it almost “cute.”

    I feel a great need to document this lesbian christian work, because I feel that malestream christians are out to destroy us anyway they can. They say more mean things about us on christian radio than anywhere in America. The insults, the making of us into objects, the just plain meanness. When we fight back WE are accused of being haters. When women fight back WE are accused of hating men. Hey, I never raped a man, I never underpaid a man, I never attacked a man out of nowhere. I never called men awful sexual names to their faces, I never sexually harassed or publically humiliated a man. I’ve personally witnesses men do this to me and to women in public. I’ve never met a man who came into my office crying because his wife had given him a black eye….

    Wow, when the oppressed speak up, we are accused of being the evil doers. I’d like to see some brave straight people call those christian radio shows on the carpet for their homophobia. I’d like to see Exodus people sued for malpractice for the psychological harm they do gay people. And I meet the victims of these “ministries” all the time. Troy Perry jokingly called them “Dos Equis” Ex-Ex gays.

    If you want to gang up on and demonize a group, conservative straight christians just love attacking us.
    Here we are doing groundbreaking work on bringing sexuality and spirituality together, and we get attacked for this.

    I believe our movement came about through the holy spirit, and through a kind of collective inspiration. We have so many visionaries in our ranks, many gay men too like Harry Hay and Troy Perry. But I can’t but be especially moved by the lesbian elders who put their whole life on the line for the sake of lesbian christianity. Some of our leaders were excommunicated, some tried to commit suicide, some came out of horrifying abusive marriages to men, some of us just said NO MORE MALE GODS.

    I could write forever on the experience of lesbians in America, and our great spiritual awakening, that is much about spirit, as it is about politics or sex or anything you could name.

    This lesbian spiritual transformation has to be documented so that all may know of it. What if I had never had the chance to get to know Dorothy Day or Theresa of Avila, or even Padre Pio, who, oddly enough, I feel a strange sense of devotion to…. I even believe that Padre Pio watches over our little gay bar, the last one left in our little town, by the way.

    My partner is working on a series about gay saints, she has over 36 saints lined up for the series. We are a visionary people, and I think I want to communicate this vision.

    We don’t want to waste all our time debating with people who think the god is male. We have a larger vision other than pure self-defense, or my paranoid theory that Andrew the evangelist is simply gathering data to try to convert gay people to straight. He seems to young and bubbly to come up with this plan, but still, you wonder. What would happen if all the gay men in Chicago suddenly started going to evangelical straight churches?
    What would happen if 150 lesbians showed up at Debbie’s church? If the church membership was 150, what if lesbians doubled the membership?
    What would really happen? Would the pastor just preach a usual gay hate sermon, love the sinner hate the sin? Would the resources be there to help us grow in god in our relationships and marriages? Would that church honor our children and not turn them against their gay and lesbian parents? What would happen?

    I think there are conservative gays, who like male churches. Without a doubt, I mean bible believing gay men who are more sexist than straight men… shock it’s true. Gay men were livid when lesbians introduced inclusive language in MCC.

    How would a straight church really adapt to lesbian culture? We had MCC members who were Wiccan AND Christian, for example. We had Jews and Buddhists too. We had men having an easter bonnet contest. We had transgender men and women, we had male to female transgendered people who now identify as lesbians. Hey, I know a lot of them. It’s hard to get used to. But there you have it.

    My posts are too long, but I feel all of this stuff hasn’t been written about on this type of blog before, and I want to be sure that people know who the great lesbian christian writers are etc. :-)

  • Audrey

    I'm a very practical person. Most of the time, I really want to know what is true vs. what might be culturally conditioned bigotry.

    A scenario… it seems that straight christians are really wedded to the "one dimensional family" model of human existence. But in America and many places around the world, families are different.

    Most social service agencies will tell you they are overextended and under funded. They can't find enough good homes for the homeless kids. Foster care is overextended. Many conservative christians will do everything in their power to prevent lesbians and gays from adopting kids.

    So they'd rather that the kids have no homes at all.

    If a husband is beating his wife, and a child is watching this — a main cause of future male violence if the child is a boy, is this home better than a home with two Moms?

    What is this idea that there is only one type of family, and that only children of the Mom and Dad variety are the best 100% of the time.

    It's this kind of one pattern thinking that is so characteristic of conservative christian thinking. There's this idea that women are weak and men are strong, and that no women can defend themselves against abusive men.

    No women are weak, men should do the fighting for women. Let's ignore the fact, that in a war, male soldiers rape and kill women, so if the women never learn military skills, they will be helpless during the next male civil war. Look at the Congo as a good case in point here.

    If we had a war on our shores, I would be worried about male US soldiers, I would want to be armed to protect myself from those rapists wandering the streets. I would not want an all male army in my life that's for sure. I'd want a giant women's army as well, to balance the male army.

    I believe women need to have backing for any family they might find themselves in, or any army they might have to deal with.

    I believe that it is the gays and lesbians with kids who will pose the biggest problem to the haters in conservative churches. What are they going to do? Reject the children, tell the children that the two Dads or two Moms are sinners? Heck, conservative pastors never call out abusive men and boot them out of congregations. Men who are porn addicted aren't seen as a menace to the women of a congregation. I can see that men in congregations might be far more dangerous than a gay father.

    The traditional family in America is now a statistical minority. So this ideal that the right wing promotes is just fiction now. Marriages in the past where women were beaten and raped by husbands, where domestic violence went unchecked I think were like ticking time bombs to the next generation.

    Gay and lesbian children face social rejection and more abuse at home for being different. A lot of us flat out don't trust straight people. We think they are either haters at worst or simply clueless oppressors at best.

    As outside observers, we find the whole ideology of the family highly suspect.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    "That’s like going back to a house where your father beats you or degrades you. You don’t return to a place where you are beaten up by words."

    Now, Audrey, you know that will sound melodramatic to most folks. You're smarter than that. Male assumption of the primary leadership roles in the Church is not "beating up" women. Excluding, yes. What you are most hurt by is the exclusion. You know, many folks would take the "beating" (sick, as that would be) because it at least would be interaction of some kind. To be ignored as if you don't exist — and that is a real problem in the world, but I am not as hung up on the patriarchy thing as you are — is the unkindest cut of all.

    God chose to send part of the Trinity to earth to dwell among us as a man and not a women. He had to because culture demanded it … because mankind had made it that way. Do you think women interacting with men in the Church may break down some old barriers more effectively than walling themselves up in feminist or lesbian enclaves? The latter is guaranteed to fail and either (1) cause more animosity or (2) worse still, make the women more irrelevant. How could God, as male or female, ever have desired such a thing?

    Andrew is attempting with his gutsy, unique ministry to bring folks together who have historically been like opposite poles of a magnet. We have to presume you have come to this blog because you want to either commend him or tear him down. In effect, you've done both. So we might need some clarity.

    I'm being direct here because you and I have been open and honest with one another. I am not seeking to offend, but to facilitate meaningful discussion in those places where it is possible. We all need to exercise our intellect, but also our spirits more.

    "What would happen if 150 lesbians showed up at Debbie’s church? If the church membership was 150, what if lesbians doubled the membership?

    What would really happen? Would the pastor just preach a usual gay hate sermon, love the sinner hate the sin?"

    Soulforce has showed up at my church. In fact, that's pretty much where the organization launched itself 10 years ago. Our membership is in the thousands, so a lot of lesbians would have to come out of the woodwork to double that. They would not hear a hate sermon, I assure you. They would hear about redemption. If they come in the next two weeks, they will hear about Daniel, the prophet. Among other things, they will be reminded that he did not allow his religious and cultural heritage as a Jew to be assimilated by the Chaldeon culture. He refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar or be influenced by Chaldeon history and literature, but he remained true to God, who protected him and those who stood with him.

    "Marriages in the past where women were beaten and raped by husbands, where domestic violence went unchecked…"

    Audrey, you want to play this up for all its worth, but you are playing to the wrong audience. Are you wiling to talk about lesbian domestic violence and unhappiness, or would you have us believe all lesbian relationships are peachy keen? It's not male-female marriage that is the problem. It is enthroning self rather than God that brings down many relationships. We have many idols in high places that need to come down.

    Families are worth standing up for. We have the good, the bad and the ugly. I'm for praising the good and loving the bad and asking God to help us all find healing and growth. We cannot have that unless we seek Him first.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Not cheating. Just read about Audre Lord recently. Didn't she write a letter of disagreement to Mary Daly that went unanswered, so she published it? Can't remember the details, but it was over something controversial Daly had written or some such. Probably not enough to get a gold star. Boo-hoo.

    So, you like Mel White. I've had some pleasant chats with him. And one not-so-pleasant one. Can you also cite some well-known men who espouse or write about gay theology, other than Mel? I never heard Mel use "she" in referring to God. That's new to me.

    Mel has not exactly been fair in all his fights. Sorry.

  • Jon Trouten

    I think Audrey mentioned Troy Perry and Harry Hay in one of her earlier posts.

    Personally, I think churches and pastors (whether that pastor is male or female) should use the type of language they prefer about God: be it Father, Mother, He, She, Creator, Patriarch, Yahweh, Sophia, whatever. But I think people should also step back and realize that other people find comfort in terminology that feels abrasive to others. Relish your right to worship using terminology that nourishes you, just as you should try respecting the right of others to use worship terminology that works for them.

    Though not sure what most of this has to do with marriage licenses, civil unions, marriage rites, or marriage rights.

  • Audrey

    "Though not sure what most of this has to do with marriage licenses, civil unions, marriage rites, or marriage rights." Had to laugh at this Jon!!

    And of course you right… however, lesbians had to BATTLE to have our wishes respected within MCC even on this very important issue of god language. There are two wars that lesbians fight: one is the war against sexism, and the other war is the war against homophobia. When you are fighting a war on two fronts, you tend to get real blunt real fast.

    That said…. Jon, I'm curious, do you think gay men actually stand to gain with marriage rights, while lesbians get cheated by a sneaky patriarchal institution all over again?

    Will "marriage" simply create division in the gay community… those who are married and those who are not, and thus the lesbians or gays outside this system get looked down upon by the late to the table assimilationists?

    A big question I know, but one that is worth discussing I think.

    Cheers!

  • Audrey

    Debbie,

    I really want to give you at least a partial gold star on Audre Lorde :-)

    Or as a gradeschool gym teacher kindly would say to our entire class, "I'm giving you all an E for effort!" To this day, I remember the kindness with which this little complement was paid :-)

    Mel White is a complex character. He is a johnny come lately to the movement, aided and abetted our enemies when they were mobilizing early on in 1980… I know Debbie, these may be your people, and this is a very complex issue. So much is complex and detailed… He's an old guard sexist who tries to pretend he is not. Men can't fool me Debbie, I can see through their every phoney liberal posture! In some respects, plain old right wing conservative men are a lot more honest. I may disagree with them naturally, but they are honest about what they believe and actually live by those beliefs… most of the time. Liberal gay men who were once married to women are another story entirely.

    But anyway, Mel, like all conservative educated christian men of his era, was steeped in male supremacy, sexism and male entitlement. Hey, they all are like that, nothing personal. I don't really understand this, but I really believe in marriage and loyalty. And, I don't understand why you can't be loyal to your marriage partner. So I often wondered at how women suffer at the hands of their gay husbands, and how gay men often use straight women to hide. Again, this is complex and sensitive…

    I like the part of Mel that is trying to attone for his early collabortion with our enemies, and this resulted in the death of literally hundreds of thousands of gay men. It's a long complex story, but one that horrifies me.

    Knowing men the way I do, I know they shut down their emotions, and move on. They don't think of their crimes or the implications of their work. It's just who they are. So Mel might not even realize that he has blood on his hands for all the gay men who died under Reagan, and Falwell. I know, I don't mean to be hyperboic here, just testifying to an uncomfortable truth…

    As for Audre Lorde and Mary Daly, the biographer of Audre Lorde, actually found the letter Daly had sent to Lorde, and Audre Lorde had simply lied when she said the Daly had never responded to her. However, as with all lesbian writing, it is best to read the entire body of work, and those two women are well worth reading, for a variety of reasons. I can't judge which author and scholar you would like more, but I encourage you to read both actually.

    I take great pride in reading just about everyone. I even read atheists! I love to read and think, and I love to think about what divides or unites people. When I meet gay men, I always give them a hard time. They haven't read one iota of lesbian literature, but I know the gay male canon well. I also have a real love for 18th century poetry, Shakespeare, Medival mystics, and everything about your native son, Thomas Jefferson–my personal favorite founding father.

    To me, you pick a founding father and keep reading as the scholarship expands on this particular person. Imagine a black woman writing about Jefferson today! Wow, very different from Dumas Malone's biography, for example. Montecello, of course being a much beloved place I visited a few decades ago…

    Wandering a bit, but to me, if you don't read widely and passionately, you don't really live at all. And since lesbians don't have the kind of money to make major Hollywood movies :-) our best efforts are in books. It is the best of what we have to offer the world.

  • Audrey

    Actually, I am not playing up domestic violence, because I encounter women all the time who have been through it. And for women who were raped by men, father god is very problematic indeed. This was not the case with me, but it is very common among women who won’t go back to fundamentalist churches, There were a lot of MCC pastors who had to deal with this, and it was a huge issue that a lot of women were dealing with. They do see this language as abuse, and many women pastors in MCC have been ministering to this for decades now.

    I’d never go to a man for pastoral counceling EVER. I just don’t trust men to have access to my prayer life or inner life. Off limits guys.

    It may not be an issue that is talked about openly in your church Debbie, but it most certainly is a real issue. Incidently, one of our gay male pastors who was raped by an uncle as a child, does not like to use male god language either, because it triggers those abuse memories, so I am being very clear here and not hyperbolic.

    Remember, when we critique straight christians this will seem very threatening indeed. We don’t want to be assimilated as “straight people” into a mass of heterosexual conservative christians, because that would be rather self-defeating. I’m sure your church has closeted gays in it, and also we’ve known Mel White for many many years. He and his partner Gary Nixon are simply holding the church accountable for its misdeeds towards gay christians. We all are familiar with Jerry Falwell and his hate against gays, and also early in his career, he was quite the racist as well. Those sermons are removed from the church websites, but we have those racist sermons, for the record.

    I think Mel White has reported from inside fundamentalism for many years, and he is trying to attone for actually furthering the careers of homophobes like Falwell. His books speak to his life story. As a lesbian, I thought his support of the enemies of lesbians and gays was dreadful in the early 80s, but he is trying to attone for that. You’ll notice that in most of his interviews, and stories in documentaries, he calls god “she.” I always like that.

    So again, I’m just saying, I don’t pray to a male god ever. I use she in my devotions, and I would never attend a church service that used male and he all the time in worshiop, because if it’s sexist, it will also be not open to lesbians. It’s just the danger sign, or warning sign that tells me to turn down a different road, that’s all.

    I will be very blunt and critical of straight churches and what straight people do that damages lesbians. Very blunt. I think it is a good thing for straight people to listen for once to what we have to say, and stop being so defensive. Falwell’s church has been a huge enemy of the gay community going back to the early days of Moral Majority, and Mel White, as his ghost writer, has reported on this from the inside.

    Mel White simply thinks he should be in that church to keep an eye on it, to be a witness as an out gay man, and I think it takes far more guts for him to do this than most heterosexual conservatives, who would never join a gay church and attend every Sunday. You folks don’t come to our churches unless you come out of the closet, or have a child get AIDS, or have some sort of awakening when a teenager commits suicide… it always takes some shocking wake up call.

    You’d best find this all out through Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians PFLAG– the parents of the gay and lesbian kids started this group as a support group because they were in the closet about their gay children. They’ve been “foster” parents for many of us, who had our biological parents kick us out of the house… almost always fundamentalist homes, by the way. Throw the kids out in the street. We have thousands of gay kids on the streets of our city, and a huge social service effort to find them shelter. I’ve met many of the kids and heard their stories. I counted myself very lucky that this didn’t happen to me as a teenager. MCC has long had outreach to these kids, and some have now grown up and had good lives. Many kids wanted to be adopted by gay parents as well.

    This abuse of children by fundamentalist parents doesn’t seem to be going away, despite our best efforts as a movement to report this to the world, and try to save those kids. And the worst stories always seem to come from kids who escaped fundamentalist homes. Even I couldn’t believe this at first when I first moved here. I couldn’t believe the sheer numbers of these kids on the streets, it was mind boggling. Usually, I’d find a little coffee shop and hang out and listen, or I’d invite a kid in for a cup of coffee is she was a street kid. They wanted to talk and needed someone sympathetic to listen. I never told anything about myself unless they asked, so they would have no idea what my religious or political affiliation was, and after maybe the 200th story over the past 18 some years, well it still shocks me.

    All I’m saying is that Andrew appeared to say he was here to find out the truth about lesbian and gay life, and that he went to live in the gay community to do work with us. I assume he intends to honestly know about lesbian feminist christianity as well, and not fall into the trap of male supremacy as his operating assumption. Or perhaps he only works with gay men, I don’t know for sure. Needless to say, lesbian christians have very strong opinions, and we are unmoveable on certain principles. We just say what they are, and those who are meant to understand them will. Those that won’t won’t. It’s not a point of arugumentation, since I don’t expect christian conservatives to change in any way, any more than I think men will change. It’s just me telling the world that lesbians have a unique culture, that we have created this over the past 40 some years, that we have our own worship traditions etc. It’s not very different from christian missionaries going to China and having to preach a sermon in Chinese.
    When in Rome do as the Romans do.

    I don’t make adjustments any more to oppressive language or situations.

    So we view the gospel in the language of lesbian, and we tune out the foreign language of classic male dominance. Remember, we protect ourselves, we are not a part of that male dominated family unit for the most part, so none of the hetero-normative patriarchal constructs really make much sense to us at all. That is simply all I’m saying, that and of course spreading the word that lesbians are powerful christians, we have fantastic ideas, a lively and fun community, a huge repertior of songs, poems, theology, preachers, history, humor, folk singers, gospel singers, professors, and inspirations. It’s not about “add lesbians and stirr into hetero-ness” We don’t want to be added or stirred into that world, we want to continue to create our own connection to god, our own sense of personal revelation. And so far, we have done this brilliantly and with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm.

    You might be fearful of this Debbie, because you are in the ex group, but most of us wanted to hear the gospel in as powerful a way to us as possible, not as a diluted word, but a word that reaches us.

    All of the things I am talking about are real, and true to lesbian christian life as I have known it for decades. We have heard the stories of the abuse of women, we have founded rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters, which christians have then invaded and then fired the lesbian staff… true story there.

    All of this information is beyond your understanding, because you don’t know us as we are as a community of the whole. So really, it comes down to knowing the community well. I’ve been to your churches, I’ve heard the sermons on the radio, I know the score, and I know that I do not belong in that world at all. That’s really what is what. This is not an excersize in being a cheerleader to a straight man, it is taking him up on his personal challenge to see for himself who we are. Since the blog seems like a sexist blog (perhaps because Andrew hasn’t gotten to feminism 101 yet), I think this should be pointed out. I’m sure that Andrew would not want to offend the lesbian community, or offend black people by calling them “negros” or worse yet using the N-word. Language is important and you need to be honest about how language would affect a group. It is socially acceptable to use sexism language in America, and sexism is the very last bastion of ism that is accepted. But to me, male god language is not only sexist, it is also clueless, not tuned in, not an accurate translation of many god words in the bible.

    Remember, gay men and straight men are still sexists, and have been trained to be this way. Women have been shunted aside from all sorts of leadership poistions in America for a very long time. We have a long way to go that’s for sure. Just don’t expect me to quote Audre Lorde, “collude in my own oppression.” I’ll give you a gold star if you know who Audre Lorde is … don’t cheat and google :-)

  • Audrey

    I was just thinking recently, maybe because this blog is different… but anyway musing. Here I am a fully conscious lesbian, I helped create a dynamic culture, and from about age 18 to the present moment decades later, I grew with the movement. Before 1984, I had never heard of a lesbian and gay christian church, much less that lesbians were in ministry all over the world. After 1984, I discovered that lesbians indeed were christian minsters and great and loving ones at that, but more important, I got to visualize a self being a full participant in the liturgy.

    As luck would have it, my Mom just happened to be in town the very Sunday I was doing this. My Mom is devout catholic, and attends catholic church every Sunday, but for the very first time, she saw her own daughter up there on the altar celebrating communion. I think it was a true moment of healing, of some kind of special connection.

    Although I was connected to faith, I also felt distant from it. I’m not the preachy type, I don’t say “I feel blessed” I don’t use what to me seems like a phoney type of god talk. It just feels hypocritical, cloying, icky… Kind of the way I feel when someone calls me “hon” or “honey” or “sweetie” I know that these are kindly terms, and that people mean well when they say them to me, but inwardly they make me cringe.

    So god-language to me has to have a clarity or a kind of respect for the minds of women… it has to really honor the intellectual passion that is a lesbian hallmark in the world.

    I’m thinking of how great it is when women celebrate christ together, and when we read the bible with a kind of lesbian flair or power.

    When my brother got married many years ago, he and his fiance wanted me to be in the wedding, but they also knew that I wasn’t going to come dressed up in some hetero-women’s attire, no bridesmaid gown for me, no femme clothing, no servile made up face. Wisely, my brother asked me to read from the pulpit first Corinthians, Chapter 13, which is one of my favorite bible verses. I love to read outloud, poetry, from prose, the newspaper… and I love public speaking as well, and have done it dynamically all my life.

    So I was delighted to be asked to do something I was good at, and delighted that I didn’t have to wear those straight woman outfits. Although I see myself as an intellectual lesbian from the tradition of Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West and Susan B. Anthony, the world would look at me and just see a “butch” lesbian. So that type of lesbian simply finds the “fashions” of most women….well, it isn’t me.

    After I did the reading, I was very surprised at the reception. So many people came to me and said, “Are you a minister?” This was surprising to me, because I would not think of myself as this at all. I’m very much a businesswoman, so god stuff is what my partner does, I’m more secular in nature. The thing was, I had had such good support and training in the lay roles of MCC, that when it came time to read to a congregation, I was very much at ease. Without missing a beat, I read the whole thing as inclusive, and nobody at all noticed.

    I believe that women need 1000s of hours to be the leaders, to be the speakers, to be the ministers. Women need to shine forth with all this passion in christianity.

    I think about this, and I realize that the way conservative churches are constructed, I just would never fit in to that hierarchy, that top down mentality, the idea that male knows best. It would be as silly to me as having to wear a pink dress and have my face covered up with a mask of make-up.

    So there is a genuine clash of cultures between the plain faced egalitarian lesbian and women who want men to protect them, and lead them, and be all these things that men are not in my life. Men are dull in leadership, but women are fascinating. You want to root for half the human race that needs to really step up and be. We’ve all heard men droning on forever, and somehow, well, I lost interest in their words.

    Even with Obama speeches and everyone in our community going into Obama-mania, I felt he was oddly fake in some way. He’d try to give speeches to women’s groups, but he read the list of women’s rights with as much passion as a laundry list. “He doesn’t feel anything for the freedom of women, he’s just reciting a teleprompter,” is what I thought.

    It seems that Jesus himself would never support this male dominant world.
    His ministry seems much more complex. He treats women seriously, he accepts the women who followed him, and I am sure he had many women in leadership roles back then. Remember, when women lead, or when they are apostles, what happens is that male authority cuts them out of history. Remember when men ruled history, and now we have all these books talking about what women have done, their fascinating stories, the classical music they wrote, the renaissance art they created, the buildings they designed.

    In 1960, you were lucky if you read about Betsey Ross, Martha Washigton, etc. You never saw all the letters women wrote to each other during the revolutionary period or Abigail Adams telling her husband to “remember the ladies” because men with unchecked power will become tyrannts too.

    Now, the field of women’s studies has exploded. We even have lesbian archives worldwide, and huge collections of letters, diaries and accounts from lesbians who lived in 1910, for example. Photos, diaries, books, and now of course recorded speeches, videos and movies. I’m looking forward to the day when some filmaker can make a film biography of Carter Heyward, and Nancy Wilson and Mary Daly. Or a huge mega-movie about the lesbian christian movement, shown in all the theaters, where everyone can say WOW, look at those women go!!

    It is this inspiration, and connection with the most powerful divine feminine, divine warrior woman, whatever you want to call it. I love the archetype of the warrior woman, the freedom fighter, the power that lesbians discover once they have survived young adulthood and come into their own.

    Nancy Wilson, who now leads MCC, said long ago (back in the early 70s) that the first woman minister she ever saw, was herself looking back at her in a mirror with her clergy collar on. These stunning words from a pioneer woman of god is amazing to read even to this day. She’s written a lot about her early life, and her exploits in the early days of MCC.

    The church is about creativity, it is about each group discovering its voice.
    Think of the black slaves talking about Moses and freedom land, even as their white masters carried their bibles dutifully to church each Sunday, believing that Jesus approved of slavery…. “slaves obey your masters…” they loved to quote that one. Virginia, being a slave state and one of the most backward and scary places legally for lesbians and gays to be right now, still lives with this tradition. It is no accident that Jerry Falwell’s church is at the head of the line in standing up against gays from the get go. You wouldn’t want to move to Virginia if you were a lesbian couple and had a child, just as Rosie illustrated the danger of the state of Florida.

    So the conservative christian straight woman who celebrates the lord and master of the house, or celebrates the maleness of god, is simply on a completely and utterly different spiritual path. It is a completely different worldview, and this worldview, although perplexing to me, may benefit her. Patriarchy does hold benefits for women, that’s why they want to stay in it.

    For the conscious lesbian, who has a community to support her, that world becomes irrelevant and soul destroying. Each generation finds Moses, finds the way out of Egypt, finds a way to reject Pharoh. In 1794, the theology was “slaves obey your masters…it is god ordained” In 1658, it was kings are divinely chosen by god, you must obey your king because he was appointed by god…” pretty convenient for the ruling class of that day.

    So the hardest thing will be for women to break the yoke of pharoh because it is so “natural” men have always ruled, god is always a man, husbands always rule the home, it is nature and god given. Who benefits from this? Well a lot of women would prefer the protection of one man, than be stuck having to sexually service many men. Women who are daunted by a very hostile work environment, or who are denied meaningful jobs, and are really sick of working the counter at Macy’s for minimum wage, might find it a relief to have a husband who can work, make an excellent living, and protect this woman from the awful jobs given out to thousands of women.

    Conservative patriarchal churches serve this role for women. But somehow, I wanted out of master’s plantation, I wanted freedom to find the god of lesbians. And there is a special god there who totally gets lesbian christian feminists, and thinks we are the greatest on earth. That god is saying “go fight for freedom, do it in my name, and you will prosper.”

    Lesbians are the best in the eyes of this god who believes in human evolution, both in consciousness and perhaps in physical development. God marvels how fast women can run in marathons now, or how strong they get at the gym.

    God loves lesbians because we are so dynamic, powerful and interesting.
    She loves us for pricking the pin in the fat egos of the male ministers who are out buying prostitutes on the side, or who are beating their wives. Lesbians, expose those false preachers, get them out of my house, help bring the word of god to a people who are excluded from straight christianity.

    And I really love this. There is something so empowering to me about it.
    In the past, it would have been me alone against all those awful churches, but now I never have to listen to those men again if I don’t want to. I can see what this faith is all about in the lesbian key of C, or perhaps lesbians are simply the white keys on the piano of god— the songs would sound so odd if only black keys were played, and god in her boredom with the human race, maybe created up specially to bring a new idea to the world.
    In an over populated world, god wanted gays and lesbians to flourish as a check on out of control population. And god created us to invent democracy in ancient Greece, or paint the Sistine Chapel.

    God created the businesswoman Lydia, who was an early financial supporter of Jesus, naturally she dyed cloth lavender :-) It’s in the bible!

    God created lesbians and gays to be a powerful creative force in the world, and we were made for great work. I’m going to celebrate this everywhere I can, because god loves the underdog, god loves the people beaten down by Pharoh, god loves creativity, god loves kick butt lesbian freedom fighters. And god is sick of male dominance, and sick of men destroying her creation, polluting her seas, killing her whales, and letting women die in childbirth.

    GOD JUST LOVES THE DARING LESBIANS…what can I say?

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Harry Hay, Jon? You can't be serious. I would have picked up on his name had it been mentioned earlier, but Audrey's posts are so long, I could have missed it if she did throw it out. The closest Hay came to theology was his Native American work. His association and protests on behalf of NAMBLA were his most notorious legacy, however. The New York Times conveniently omitted that little fact in his obituary, while otherwise lauding him as the father of gay liberation. You may recall how shamelessly the media bashed Jerry Falwell after his death, however. Of course, bashing the Hays or the Falwells of the world or pointing out media duplicity is not going to move any meaningful discussion along here.

  • Jon Trouten

    "Harry Hay, Jon? You can’t be serious."

    I can't be serious that she mentioned him alongside Troy Perry up above? I didn't say that he was Christian. Heck I didn't say anything about him except that Audrey mentioned him above.

    Most everything I know of him promotes Pagan theologies. You asked about gay men other than Mel White that espoused gay theologies.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Wow – amazing what happens in a conversation during 11 days of being gone! So I’d like to chime in for a few thoughts on all that I’ve read:

    Audry – Thank you very much for your thorough explanations of the lesbian movement over the last few decades. I found it very enlightening. I noticed in one of your comments that you thought I was learning about the culture of gay men. Actually, my entire first 4 years of my immersion was into the lesbian culture. My first two best friends to come out to me were lesbians, and quickly my circle of friends became myself, and 15 lesbians. In fact for about 2 years I was laughed at as the straight, male version of a ‘fag-hag’. It wasn’t until I “officially” started The Marin Foundation that I even was in relationship with, or truly knew any gay men (other than my third best friend who came out to me, he was male). So I am very familiar with lesbian culture – especially since there has been a huge exodus of lesbians out of Boystown over the last 5 years, moving to Andersonville, two neighborhoods more north of Boystown. In the GLBT Chicago media recently there has been quite a few slinging of stereotypes and negative words back and forth between gay men and lesbians about the exodus. Many lesbians are speaking up as to why they’re moving to Andersonville: “Because gay men just want to hook up and party and that doesn’t represent family-based lesbian culture.” Boy did that one cause a firestorm here! It’s very difficult to be able to fully cover the ‘subs’ in any, or every culture or population of people. I try as best as I can to relate to and represent the ‘whole’. But it’s impossible. As Jon said, I think it’s best for people to identify with God as best as what draws them closer. I don’t think it can be a one-for-all type of thing, whether He, She, etc. God does transcend gender because God is neither male nor female.

    But speaking in terms of movements throughout culture, wholehearted shifts (such as the fighting for a blanket reference to God as ‘she’) lend themselves to fads and not sustainability.

    I do see where you’re coming from on that, and far be it for me to ever deny that there has been a male, and hetero-dominated society that still persists from centuries ago. I just don’t feel that ‘not attending straight weddings’ or listening to male preachers or anything that cuts off a section of society does any good. It’s not at all a stretch for you to know what it’s like to be cut off because of who you are and what you believe. The only way for society to move forward is to continue seeking out those opposite than us – whoever that is.

    Once again, I totally understand your lesbian-centered, feminist stance (especially in the era you grew up in by being both female, and lesbian), but in order for a new day to be ushered in, so must a new day of activism as well.

    Activism by subtraction (cutting off) does no good. It just polarizes communities/groups further into their own plight. Activism by addition (reaching out to learn and listen and incarnationally and relationally walk together in acknowledgment of the divide) is in my opinion the only way to go.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Sorry, Jon. I thought you were endorsing Hay in some way. Whew!

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Welcome back, Andrew. Anxious to hear your report.

  • Jon Trouten

    “That said…. Jon, I’m curious, do you think gay men actually stand to gain with marriage rights, while lesbians get cheated by a sneaky patriarchal institution all over again?

    Will “marriage” simply create division in the gay community… those who are married and those who are not, and thus the lesbians or gays outside this system get looked down upon by the late to the table assimilationists?”

    You have spoken repeatedly of divisions that already exist between gay men and lesbians. I’m sure there will be those who seek divisions between those who choose to marry and those who don’t. There doesn’t have to be a division unless we choose to perpetuate one.

    But I want the ability to make that choice to legally marry or not, just as I want you to have the ability to make that choice or not and every other gay person. Most of the gay people I know who are seeking to legally marry are lesbians. Why should they be denied that choice for fear of being seen as assimilationists by those who’ve chosen against legally marrying.

  • Audrey

    Actually, it is what I want to focus on that is of vital importance to me. I already studied male history and customs in school, but now that I’m older, I want to fully focus on women’s history, strategies and spirituality. In order to balance the disparity of information, you have to know that every day, the world is male centered— TV, radio, malestream news. Almost all the coverage of events that effect women are filtered through the male media establisment. You can always tell by the choice of words and headlines, so what I do to balance this…. remember male is the default, woman is the afterthought, the tag line, the second chair, or the complete absense of.

    So my focus is on lesbian nation building. Men get the lions share of all resources, and lesbians I believe really should and can form neighborhood associations, and communities, and this is really great for us. Heterosexuals assume that they can be only with staight people, but lesbians have to work hard to find our own world, create decision making process that fully take us beyond “educating men” which we really don’t want to do much.

    So what I propose is to invite the long term lesbian activists to come here and comment. We have thousands of them, and I’m not talking about a lesbian best friend or two, I’m talking about women who have been working on community issues for decades. We don’t all want to do feminism 101, and I’m in the post graduate program so to speak.

    However, I do have to point out “male” defult when I can, because men simply refuse to fess up to this. The language and the default button always reveal the bias. That’s all I’m saying.

  • Audrey

    P.S. And I do believe in boycotting as a political act. This has been very effective in the lesbian and gay community, and we should continue to do this. I boycott all churches that use male exclusive language, or who don’t ordain women, for example. I boycott all churches that are abusive to lesbians in their theology, naturally. No point is listening to ignorant people call you and your partner sinners just for being committed to each other. Lesbians should avoid these insulting and demeaning situations.

    And I think the oppressors of the past have a lot to think about. There is no excuse for the kind of ignorance about what would cause women to feel the most powerful, the most educated, and the most honored. Lesbians want to be the most honored, and we want to emply our unique decison making processes as much as possible. And I believe we know a lot about equality in ways that men never seem to understand or really want to know most of the time.

    Lesbians in other cities often find gay male culture abrasive, loud and vulgar. I really think lesbians have a lot of work to do on behalf of ourselves, and are energized by this. Homphobia and sexism can really drain your energy. Don’t forget I work all day with unconscious straight men, and unconscious straight women, so on my off time, I really want to be completely away from all that as much as possible. If nothing else, to not be drained by the ignorant. A lot of minority groups in America form their own communites, churches and businesses, and I think lesbians should make this option possible as widely as is possible. Our resources need to be focused to the service of other lesbians, and if you do the math, you’ll know why this is urgent.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X