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Friday, August 3, 2012

A different perspective

Sandi has it on her heart to write about gay marriage for fence dwellers on the issue, specifically those that struggle from a religious standpoint. I think she has such a unique perspective and that she has things to say that no one else is saying.  (I also think she is awesome.)

This is what she wrote:

As a person in a same-sex relationship, I write this for anyone who may be interested in my story… anyone who is questioning how they feel about gay marriage, or may be “on the fence” inside themselves around the issue. I write this not to gain your vote for Marriage Equality in November, but rather to offer a present day narrative for you to consider alongside religious texts and teachings… so that you might have more to ponder in your quest for resolution around the issue.

In sharing my story, I truly hope, respectfully, to allow you space to be wherever you are on the issue. However, I ask you to hear this issue from my perspective, to look at it from my world for a moment.

So here is my story… I grew up on Beals Island, raised by a large and loving family. Our community was one of cohesiveness & support. My many family members, fully engrained in the religion of my upbringing, frequently held offices within the church and attendance was regular. Our church community reflected what I knew (and still know) God to be – loving, forgiving, all-accepting and encompassing. My elders set the example for how our community would behave & interact with the world, both inside & outside of the church walls. A “Christ-like” heart was not something I had to search to discover – I was raised in it, surrounded by it, fueled by it.

I am also an introvert. I keep to myself, observing the world around me, taking everything in, digesting it, processing it based on what feels right or wrong, assimilating what feels to be good, and attempting to leave behind what doesn’t. Listening to preaching much of my life & observing the world around me, it became obvious the occasional presence of hypocrisy in the world – people preaching one thing, but living another.

It was the hypocrisy that served to spark my desire to find what was right and good in religion/spirituality, to dig through the information, both written and lived, to find what was “real.” Additionally, I have spent my life figuring out who I am, where my place is in this world, learning to speak up for myself, say what I believe. Now, I will say only what is true for me and I refuse to regurgitate words that are not true.

I offer this to you to lay a foundation for the rest of my story. As I said I was raised within religion and I have a true spirit of inquisition. You might imagine, then, when I realized that my innate attraction was to a person of the same gender, my world was flipped upside down. I knew all the Bible stories. I knew the written word. And although (previous to this time of realization) I believed my gay friends to be no different than me, I suddenly was forced to question the “naturalness” of my own nature. I hadn’t questioned it in my gay friends. But as I received judgment from my family, my community, my world, who had previously shown unconditional love… I knew only to delve into my own judgment, examine my very soul – that which I am made of. I spent years in self-inquiry & investigation. I prayed. I meditated. I shed many a tear. I begged for answers. I spent much time alone, questioning this world. I never doubted my heart – God made it. I did, however, question why God made me this way. Why would love hurt so much in my life? Why would the very thing that God is made of (LOVE), be the thing so judged and persecuted by the world around me? I’ve heard the expression – “God doesn’t make junk.” He doesn’t make mistakes. And He didn’t make a mistake with me.

Presently, I spend the first moments of nearly every morning of my life in meditation – communing with what I know to be God. For me, it is a necessity for my life & existence. Those are the moments of connection to what is real. Just as Jesus was refreshed and rejuvenated following His times of solitude and communing with God, I am renewed in those moments. The reality of my true, essential, pure nature -that which we call love – fills me & connects me to all that is. As I come out of meditation, and incorporate that Love into this physical space, I am refreshed and fully present, knowing that my life is as it was meant to be, by God’s creation, God’s nudging, and God’s love.

I share this only to let you know how much effort I put forth in maintaining my connection to this universe, to share how intentionally I connect myself to a larger Spirit. I think it’s important for religious people who question my “lifestyle” to understand that I don’t live my life blindly. Quite the contrary, my eyes and my heart are wide open. I have been forced, by a spirit broken open to look at the very core of who I am in this world.

I can say without hesitation, after 15 years of inquiry, that I am a lesbian. I was created to be who I am. It was not a mistake. I am not an aberration. I am not “unclean.” I am exactly who I am supposed to be, and I am living the life I was meant to live. And I know, in my heart, that I am just as deserving of equal rights as the next person.

Why would God make anyone gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, you might ask? I believe God is always guiding us to a more perfect, all-encompassing, boundary-less love. Who is God? Is He male? Is God female? Is God made of the likes of human? Or animal? Is He handicapped, as many who come into this world? Is He black? Is God Christian? Or Muslim? These questions could go on & on. God is Love. God is Love. God is Love. Why, then, wouldn’t he push us, as creatures of His making, toward a more sweeping and unconditional love? God is our guide, and He will push and nudge us toward that which He is.

I have found a beautiful partner. We have spent the last 12 years building a life and a family together. We have worked through the ups and downs, always coming back to love as our guide. Our children are flourishing in the home we have made for them. By all definition of union, we are married.

My issue, at this time, is with the construct of the world in which we live – run by corrupt governmental systems, choosing to fight wars to gain peace, living by written laws instead of searching for what is right and good to lead our actions and our words. It is in this bizarre world that you get to judge for me, because my right to marry depends on your vote, your judgment, your acceptance or rejection of me and my life. For me, this vote is less about marriage, and more about the fact that you’ve been given a lawful right to judge me to be worthy or not of the same rights you already have access to. It really comes down to the rights. People who think this is only a “marriage” issue are not seeing the whole picture.

Marriage is not something that a person or religion can bestow upon two people, though some might argue otherwise. Marriage cannot simply be given to two people at any given time. Look at all the people who get married after a few nights together. Relationships/marriages are born of love, grown, nurtured, reaffirmed over and over again. Marriage is something built by two people in relationship, something created and sustained over time. The “marriage” that everyone is arguing over right now is simply one of “rights.” I am married to my partner of 12 years. No one had to give us a marriage, and conversely no one can take it away. On November 7, after the vote has come and gone, we will still be married. We may or may not have access to the same legal rights afforded all of our “straight” friends and family, but we will still be married. Our children will still have two committed parents, who teach them love, day in and day out. Our family will not change.

Wherever you are in your belief system around my life, my family and/or my ability or inability to get married… that is where you are. Sounds simple and it is. I have no judgment about your journey and where you are. It is ok. When faced, front and center, with the issue at hand, I had to do a boat-load of soul-searching. So why would I expect that you, who are not faced with the issue personally, would not also have to question the naturalness of what the written word may depict as unnatural? I don’t have any expectation that you would do anything but question. And I don’t judge it. You are where you are, and that’s ok.

For me, this is not a “fight” to win, anymore than we can gain peace out of war. Regardless of the vote in November, my love, my relationship and my family will remain just as real and true and beautiful as it was before. Of course I want the same right to marry. I want my family to be protected lawfully in this world… But the real issue at hand here, for me, is one of acceptance, inclusion, non-judgment and love.

My only offering of advice regarding the upcoming election (and this is only my lone feeling on the issue) abuts my belief regarding our standing for what we believe. If you feel convicted one way or another, stand by that conviction and vote with your heart. If, however, you are still questioning and don’t feel capable of making a decision in November, abstain from voting on the issue. I wouldn’t want to put words in your mouth just as I would hope you would not spout the word of Leviticus or Genesis, without truly understanding the culture or language in which it was written. If you don’t really know what is true for you, then be silent, listen, inquire & search out additional valid scriptural interpretations, open your heart to the voice of your God. Either way you find your conviction, it is yours.

Conversely, I will not remain silent or hidden, because if you are questioning, you need to look at me. You can read your Bible, Koran, or whatever other spiritual text of your choosing. While these are historical representations of religious descent, I, on the other hand, am a living, breathing creation born of the same Spirit you were. If you are spiritually inquisitive, you will choose to look at all the evidence provided, and not simply the words passed by oral and written transcription.

And I will ask… do you really believe that God only gave us advice on how to live thousands of years ago, and doesn’t speak to us every day of our lives?

My youngest sister, Trish, has worked for the church for years – she is currently a youth minister and one of the more enlightened beings I know. She is working toward her Master of Arts in Religion at Bangor Theological Seminary and has taken a multitude of classes in various elements of spirituality. Part of her scholarly experience delves into the old and new testaments. On her 3rd or 4th complete read of the Bible (cover to cover), I asked, “what new information do you glean from yet another reading of the Bible?” My sister is also a history buff. She eloquently explained that she reads the Bible as a historical recollection of the years in and around Jesus’ life. She takes the historical time period, looks at the political and spiritual climate of the time, and reads it from that perspective. When used in this manner, it’s almost like the actual spiritual revelation “pops” from the pages, much as a picture pops from a 3D stereogram image, if you stare at it long enough. This concept is brilliant. I stand in awe of her ability to translate the spiritual revelation of centuries our predecessor, and then compare it to present day struggle and strife.

I have nothing to preach here, but I offer you an opportunity to look at this beyond religion, or the Bible. I think most would agree that unless you have the ability to glean insight from the Bible as it was actually intended, rather than literal interpretation, you have no business judging me based on words written centuries ago by human beings of wildly variant cultures. I encourage you to look deeper.

And lastly, I ask, have you ever felt criticized for a choice you made, a hairstyle you chose, the clothing you picked out to wear? How does it feel? Have you ever been judged for who you are, innately? As the person you were created to be? Perhaps if you are in a minority or less fortunate group, you have. Well, you can change your hairstyle. You can pick out a different shirt. I, however, cannot change my sexual orientation. And I will never believe that your God believes me to be “wrong” or sinful, or would want me discriminated against, as He is the very same God who made me exactly as I am.

In November, society gets to vote for me, and deem me as worthy of the right to legal marriage or not. It seems quite unfair that this is the case - that you get to judge me as your equal? Suzanne and I struggle during these months. It’s saddening, sometimes maddening, but mostly humbling to be so blatantly judged by society.

Will I be devastated on November 7th if you judge me as unequal?… You bet. But, again, will that change my marriage to Suzanne?… not even a little. I am centered in love, my family is centered in love, and I know my place in this world. I could not have more love flowing from my life, and I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s all about.
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