I’m a better man than I was 4 years ago. I’ve my son to thank for that. His coming out brought me to being an ally for him. That expanded to being an ally in many areas. As I heard the stories of my fiancee’, feminism and the metoo movement took on a new sense of urgency. A black man and dear friend from my cabbie days became a voice I listened to more closely. These teachers and their lessons have made me a better man. As an ally you do not reach down to rescue pups, you are equals with people being treated with inequality. You learn and then you change and ask others to change. The road to being an ally has also made me an outcast to other white suburbanites. Obviously, I am a lost cause to conservative evangelicals. I am swiftly becoming disenfranchised with many white progressives. I am angry that they have ears that do not hear and mouths that won’t shut up.
For those who read my book, “Night Moves: An Ex Preacher’s Journey to Hell in a Taxi” you saw the first major change that happened in my world post ministry. I realized that as a white progressive minister, that I had a wrong view on the people of the night. I gave to and supported efforts to improve the lives of the downtrodden that served to make the situations worse. The way I saw myself as was always the great white hope stooping down to help and not the equal to someone. It was my road out of belief and out of ministry, but it was also a road towards something.
When my son came out, of course I was his ally. There was too much at stake with his life and well being to do things under the same rules of engagement from before. I had to learn. Over the years I organically changed in my view of gender and sexuality. I used to just see 2 genders and had a limited view on sexual orientation. What I discovered was an almost unlimited and beautiful spectrum far more interesting that what I had initially perceived.
When I see a parent go into fear because their kid came out, I want to give them a congratulations card. The problem is not being transgender, the problem is the ignorant who do not understand it. They are not only restricting civil rights and threatening safety, they are missing beauty and wonder beyond the binary. I see a far more interesting world than I used to. A far more beautiful one.
This opened my heart up to allow my fiancee’ into my life and be changed even more. Not only is she fluid, but she also has metoo stories to tell and feminist perspectives to teach me. I found that though I do not rape or sexually assault, I held to expectations on what should happen at the end of a date or night together. And if those expectations were not met or between dinner and the bedroom her mood changed, I was pouty. The “round the bases” thinking was not only untowards, but uncomfortable.
Releasing myself and her of that sense of expectation upped the intimacy to levels I never thought possible. It also led to me treating my friendships and other associations without other expectations I have placed on others without their consent. I have also understood even better how insidious rape culture and victim blaming is and how subtle we can be in silencing victims. How important it is to support them and believe them. How reasonable we can make the inhumane victim blaming in defense of the talented male causing harm is alarming. Again, my world just got larger and more beautiful.
Now enter Black Lives Matter. This one came with more intentionality on my part. I had begun to realize how much I was gaining from the writings by and about Dr Maya Angelou, King, Malcolm X, and Mandella to better understand how to fight for my son’s rights and the rights of his peers. As I was growing I had always believed it mattered. I had never thought myself a racist, but I had never understood covert racism and privilege. In support of my son I had attended a two part seminar on privilege. An uncomfortable mirror was held up to me that led to beautiful change.
I am in the beginning stages of doing more than just liking and sharing BLM social media posts. But it is already leading me into different perspectives and different ideas that are enriching my life and changing the limited world I used to see into something more alive and vibrant and beautiful. I am also beginning to see the change in engagement I am getting from and with black people and Latinos. My approach is simple. Be humble, listen, learn, apply, when complimented by the people you are standing with, stay humble, keep listening, keep applying.What do I get out of this? I am a better me and the world is more wonderful now and I also see the possibilities for what it could be. So why am I angry?
I am angry because too many self proclaimed white liberal progressives suck at this and still see the rescue pups and every action they take is documented through selfie to elevate themselves. Some will make great allies in one department of self identify in a struggle and not embrace the intersectionality that we need to embrace this world more fully and richly and create the possibilities together.
Over the last few weeks I have lost friends old and new. A feminist who refused to embrace trans women as women. A gay man who lashed out at black teenagers with racist comments for fighting the mayor of Chicago for the right to an equal education in their neighborhood. White liberal atheists I used to respect have also made transphobic remarks claiming laws intended to protect transgender kids like my son in school restrict their first amendment rights. This same demographic has also refused to hear the cries of women in the metoo movement and men like Matt Dillahunty seem to wish to silence the investigative journalists and concerned individuals.
Over the last week I have not been able to write. I was too emotional and too angry and could only see the pain and not the beauty. The triggers as I saw people I love facing the hate from people I used to respect was getting too maddening. I needed a break from it all to just immerse myself in the beauty and try to not allow the hate to become bitterness.
I will close with a story. Over the weekend I went to an art exhibition with my family. I was wearing my black lives matter shirt while I was out. I did not realize until that day how white and cis the spaces I like to go to are. But I also saw moments of beauty. I felt truly humbled when a black man told me he appreciated my shirt. Later that evening I was aware of a black man taking a picture of me from a distance. Then I had a wonderful conversation with a mexican american who is a teacher inviting me to join a pro DACA protest and movement that he is a part of. We exchanged information.
This is also a small world. While there I got the stink eye from someone who doesn’t like my positions on trans exclusionary radical feminists. Things said on social media can sometimes be handled better in the face to face. I had opened up the possibility of dialogue twice and avoidance was the chosen path.
I was there with my family and I was having engagement with wonderful people. In the balance of life, I was fine with the results and the lack of desired results.
This is not to elevate me. This is not my story. I do not get a gold medal for having a trans kid and a fluid fiancee’ who is Hispanic. The story needs to be focused on those who struggle for their rights. I am nothing special and I am still learning. I look at the man I used to be when I was an evangelical minister and even the person I was as a progressive minister. Yes, I have come a long way, but I still have a long way to go. All allies have more to learn and we need to remain ever humble.
The balance of anger and beauty is one I am still working on. I think it is important to call out my “tribe” on the problems we have created. Misogyny and sexism affects women, but it is a man’s problem. Racism affects people of color but it is because of our actions and inaction as white people. Homophobia and transphobia? Same thing. Intersectionality is a must. Bigots have turned the phrase all lives matter into a baton used to beat down and further subject people. For all lives to actually matter, we all need to do better, listen well, and grow.
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