Thursday, October 27, 2011

All God's Children

My life’s journey has been interesting, challenging, rewarding and insightful.  I have been blessed to have people in my life that offer wisdom which takes me to a deeper mode of thinking and introspection.  Just the other day I had one of those moments.  I was talking to a friend and she made a statement that literally floored me.  Before I share that statement with you let me note that we are both same gender loving individuals and Christians.  My friend has completed her MDiv (Master of Divinity) and is currently in the process of becoming an ordained minister. 
When things within the church frustrate either of us we lean on one another as a sounding board.  Several years ago I vowed to never get on another committee at church, however, a friend called me and said that she wanted a voice from the LGBT community and she immediately thought of me because of my activist history.  It did not take long before I my black ass was piss off so rather than deal with unnecessary frustration I quickly resigned.  I take responsibility for part of the issue that arose but how it was handled put my friend in an uncomfortable position and I thought it unfair. I shared this with my MDiv sista.  After we ended our phone conversation she sent me a text that stated “Just think we are going to have our funeral/going home services in the same sanctuary where we cannot consecrate our love for our partners”.  After reading that I was floored because she is so right which made me look more critically at the church where I worship.  Let me take a moment to say that this is a very dynamic and welcoming church in a denomination that openly supports marriage equality for all people.  However, each church has that ability to embrace the open and affirming doctrine or not.  My church, while it speaks inclusion it is only willing to dip its big toe in that water for to do so could and most likely would upset the membership of the church.   Declining membership equates to fewer tithes and offerings therefore silence or fence sitting is the order of the day.  
I have often asked myself, how can I or should I support a church that does not support me FULLY in all of who I am.  Because I was raised to attend church to worship and thank God for all that He has done for me I am conflicted by how I was raised and what I feel (abandoned). 
I find myself moving further and further away from the church as I get older because I am disappointed and disheartened because of the lack of visible inclusion.    It is odd to be in a place where you feel misunderstood by those who love you because they see the fact that the church is “welcoming” as enough.  I am not asking the church to put a rainbow banner out front but to do more than lip service and an occasional positive mention in a sermon or two a month.  Okay, yes we are miles ahead of most churches but we still have a long way to go, therefore, some even my LGBT sisters and brothers think that the crumbs from the table are enough because at least we are getting something.  I say a loud a resounding NO because for me that is not enough.   My not going to church does not mean I have given up my ability to thank, praise and believe in God but in fact it has given me the ability to demand full open acceptance.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Not As Authentic As I Thought

For quite a few years now I have celebrated the fact that I live an authentic life.  Well that was until recently.  Authentic living to me has never been about me flaunting my sexuality, however, what it did mean was not being ashamed of who I am and all that I am.  The fear of being judged without knowing the true me has caused me some discomfort in my past.  However, I had reached a point and time in my life where the opinions of others did not matter much at all anymore.   I chose to live as much of an authentic existence as I could in every facet of my life.  Taking that first step was not easy for it was like walking a tightrope without a net.  However, experience has taught me that if I am respectful of who I am and walk in love and confidence the discomfort that others may have will dissipate.  The 'coming out' (for lack of a better phrase) process is not a one-time thing.  Truly living an authentic life is a daily process for you will encounter someone almost daily that is unaware of parts of your life. 

Recently I began working for a new employer.  My previous place of employment was easy because I had been there for 17 years and authentic about who I was for 14 of those years.   So now I am faced with the process of meeting new people and building that working relationship all over again.  Inevitably someone at my new place of employment would ask some personal question(s) that I may feel compelled to answer that would shine a light on the total me.  However, that was not even a huge concern for I would be me and move forward.   There have been times in my life when I did not really see the proverbial freight train coming at all.  Well last week I had one of those moments.   

Like any new place of employment after a certain grace period you have to complete the necessary health insurance paperwork to get your health benefits in place.  On Wednesday the Human Resources Director came to my office to give me the booklet and application for insurance.  She asked me to look it over and we would discuss it later in the week.  I flipped through the document and application and my eyes caught a question that stopped me dead in my tracks.  On the medical history page the question about HIV status and diagnosis literally jumped out off the page and smacked me in my face.  The question sent me into a tailspin because while I have lived this very authentic life there was one thing that kept me in the bondage of shame, the fact that I am HIV positive.  I was diagnosed 2001 while employed by my previous employer.  Therefore, having to answer that question has never come up in my employment setting.  I have to tell you, so many things went through my head from 'I will just lie on the application' to 'what will they think of me'.    My other fear was also possibly being denied insurance coverage.  Thinking about how I would answer the question encompassed my every thought for several days.  However, there was no way I could not be honest.  My back was against the wall and I simply had to tell the truth about something that I have only had to share with family, close friends and sexual partners. 

As I thought about being authentic about this one thing that I allowed to hold me hostage I knew that I had to find it within myself to take my power back.  I have to say that God has given me a voice by speaking to me in times such as this.  Once I stepped out of the way I hear Him say that I could not allow this virus to define me for I am more than this.  The shame I may carry is not within me but placed at my feet by others and I have to choose not to pick it up and carry it.