30 Days of Love: From Pinterest With Love

I have been recovering for the past twelve months from a freak accident, falling out of a second story loft. It has been difficult to write at all. I am so grateful that I finished seminary before the accident. That does not mean that I have been off of social media completely. My favorite, Twitter, has been hit and miss, at best. I used to read upwards of 20-30 news articles a day, and tweet links to them. I am now on twitter a tiny fraction of the time. There has been an upside to being forced to slow down. This past year, Pinterest taught me that I am a visual person. Through Pinterest, I can curate what amounts to a love letter of pictures, stories, and videos.

There are two pictures that informed my “pinning” from very early on. The first is of a young woman with a sign that reads, “I need inclusive intersectional feminism because I had to scroll through five pages to see the face of another woman of color.” Five pages. Coming from my own social location of a queer, multicultural, feminist, Unitarian Universalist, her point struck me. A feminist board, “Feminism/Inspiring Strong Women,” on Pinterest followed. Those pins focus on why feminism is necessary, show women heroes, role models, and those who never got credit in their lifetime.

The second picture is of a young trans individual whose sign reads, “I need feminism if it will fight for trans people and women of color.” This is another valid criticism of feminism. The trans community is shut out of many women’s events, and even discussions.  The pins on my board, “Queer Inspiration and Affirmation,” are multicultural. As a cis lesbian, I cannot heal the divide between straight women, lesbians and trans women. That work needs to be done face to face. I can, however, make a place that mirrors those of us not from the dominant culture, rather than a window looking in as most boards are.

There is one last picture that I saw recently that inspired one more board. The picture frames a just married lesbian couple jumping in the air.  I had been collecting pictures of just married lesbians on an invisible board. The joy in their faces was so infectious that I created “Brides x2," for all those who had to wait to have their relationships acknowledged by society.

The three boards are love letters to those women who do not fit the dominant cultural expectations of their time, today or yesterday. They are smart, adventurous, brave, strong, and beautiful for being themselves.

Two Lovely Brides

My Coming Out Story (2012)

I am coming out to love again. As most of us in the LGBTQ community know, coming out is a continual process. I first came out at the end of a short marriage to a man. I could no longer live the straight life. I was almost thirty and was deep in the abyss of depression.

The minister of the UU church and the gay and lesbian group at church were enormously supportive. With the church group I worked on the No on 22 campaign. Unfortunately, California voted to pass proposition 22, to define marriage between a man and a woman.

After a couple of years I met my beloved. We were classmates then friends and our relationship evolved into an abiding love. We entered into a domestic partnership and had a commitment ceremony in 2002. Her mother and sister attended. Mine did not, not wanting to condone my lifestyle. At the time, I was not out to my father.

In 2007, I decided to heed the call to ministry. While waiting for the following fall semester, marriage equality resurfaced. Prop 22 was struck down, allowing a window of time to legally marry. My beloved and I worked for marriage equality, I with the faith community and she with the Asian and Pacific Islander community.

The week marriage became legal, my beloved and I were in line the first day licenses were available. We were mentioned in UU World, pictured on the front page of the local paper, interviewed for another paper, and filmed for a documentary show in the Philippines. We joyously married that Saturday with our UU congregation in attendance. My mother and sister, once again, did not attend. My father, however, was happily in attendance.

The passage of proposition 8 did not nullify our marriage. The significance of that became real when my beloved had an aneurism in January of 2010. The weeks of surgery, coma, recriminations, familial homophobia, friends’ internalized homophobia, and need for blame landed squarely on me, especially when I made the impossibly difficult decision to take her off life support after hesitating in fear of her family. Three major strokes after an aneurism had to be enough. The loss was devastating.

***

This past month I have started a ministry for LGBTQ folks in Los Angeles, starting small with a twitter feed and a meet-up, to honor her, and the relationship we had. There needs to be a safe place for people to go when something so devastating happens and other LGBTQ people will understand as the regular church may not be able to. Conversely, the LGBTQ community can come together with the regular church community in celebration.

So I am coming out to love again. I have begun to trust that love is possible with a wonderful woman I began dating this summer. I am honoring my beloved with a ministry to bring together the LGBTQ folks in LA to get to know one another, and build community.

The Wisconsin Tragedy

My first meeting with a Sikh profoundly changed my life for the better. I was new to the city, and he was the first person that I had met wearing a turban and an elaborate curved dagger. We were both volunteering at an event for the homeless and struck up a conversation.

I admired his knife, or kirpan, but also thought it strange that he could carry a sheathed dagger on his person, in full view. I had moved from Arizona, where guns were the norm, but knives were unseen. He then told me of its significance. 

He told me that he would fight to the death for my religious freedom. Mine. He would fight for the religious freedom of every person at that carwash. I learned later that a person carrying that dagger will fight to the death on behalf of any oppressed person. The caveat caught me up short. The dagger is used only after every peaceful means has been exhausted. The pacifist in me was honored to have met him. 

I left that carwash with the determination that I, too, would fight for freedom of religious expression, if only through peaceful means. It was not until reading Frantz Fanon more than a decade later, in seminary no less, that I could understand that sometimes, in some cases, violence is justified. 

I mourned in the days following 9/11 for the Sikh man, Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was shot to death in Arizona because the turban he wore. There is no doubt in my mind that it was a hate crime. The European American male killer mistook him for a Muslim. 

I mourn, too, for the members of the Wisconsin temple who were shot, and their friends and loved ones. Again, a dominant culture, European American, male has used an indiscriminate high-powered weapon manufactured for maximum lethality against fellow human beings. 

A kirpan is no match for an automatic weapon. Would it have made a difference if the killer knew that Sikhs value religious freedom as much, if not more, than other human beings living here in these United States? I think not. Intolerance has become more blatant, and normalized, as evidenced by the incendiary voices given airtime in the mainstream media. A culture of intolerance that has been allowed to flourish makes the deaths in Wisconsin all the more tragic.

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