A Seat at the Table: Discussions on LGBTQ Pride

Trans Poet Lee Mokobe

Earlier during this Pride month, I had the honor of attending an interactive discussion series, “A Seat at the Table with LGBTQ Friends in Faith” at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.  The mission of this event was to promote conversations about what it means to be Gay, African American and a person of faith in our society.  The ultimate objective was to identify issues and possible solutions to change the negative experiences in our community, especially to aid the younger generations.  Predictably this subject is very dear to my heart and the discussions did not disappoint.

The format was a panel of speakers followed by group discussions at each table. In addition to this, we heard the poignant poetry of South African Trans Poet and TED Fellow, Lee Mokobe.  His poems about what it feels like to be transgender, especially in the hostile environment of his homeland, were both enlightening and haunting.

The table conversations revolved around a set of questions about how we can improve the relationships between communities with opposing views regarding being LGBTQ based upon a common goal.   There were so many academic terms being thrown around that it may have been a bit intimidating to someone not familiar with the new politically correct terminology.  I guess I’m now considered “old school gay” because I found myself Googling many of the words like intersectionality, heteronormative, cisgender, non-binary and fetishization to know exactly what they meant in the LGBTQ conversation.  Hey, I admit that I’m in the community but not totally up on the lingo.  Even a word like “ally” has a specific definition in the community, according to the USC LGBT Resource Center glossary.  Apparently, allies are part of privileged groups that become actively involved in societal changes to change the perceptions of the oppressed group, such as Trans people.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the diversity of the allies at my table, which made the discussions more engaging.  For instance, hearing about the Trans youth experience and the necessity of them performing sex work to survive from the perspective of a lawyer who works as an advocate was very sobering.

There were so many great points illuminated at this event but 3 concepts stood out to me; Education, Visibility, and Respect.

The first thing needed is relevant education on many levels, especially on religion and history.  Much of the irrelevant education received about the LGBTQ community is based upon religious beliefs steeped in marginalization and hatred.  As Rev. Yvette Flunder, pastor of City of Refuge UCC in Oakland stated, “You need to free yourself of the notion that you have to suffer to receive something from God.  All of the Bible is NOT God.”  This has long been my belief.  I challenge people to educate themselves on Bible history and religion and see if they still believe that the Bible is the unadulterated Word of God. The fact that there are multiple versions and translations proves it is quite adulterated.  Educating ourselves on beliefs before adopting them blindly would eradicate much of the ignorant hatred spewed in the name of religion.  Something as simple as being aware of the correct terminology to use in conversation is showing a willingness to broaden our minds to the changing world.

LGBTQ invisibility in the church is a challenge to connecting the faith community.  We must make our stories visible, demand our rights and acknowledge our accomplishments in the church community.  If it were not for Gay folks, there would absolutely be no Gospel music.  Truth.  If we continue to allow churches to use us up for our creativity without crediting us as being valuable members, nothing will ever change.

We need to be courageous, out and proud.  My Mother used to say, “Tell the truth and shame the devil.”  If you are already transparent and affirming about yourself, there is nothing anyone can say to try and shame you into silence about being LGBTQ.  Also, if you consider yourself an “ally”, speak up and speak out loudly against injustice.

Finally, the end goal is for us all to receive love and respect from society.  It was noted that Millenials start the discussion not at acceptance, but at respect.  Acceptance of LGBTQ people is simply saying I tolerate you, but respect is a whole other level of accepting their humanity without judging.  Let’s stop asking for permission because the way has already been paved by earlier generations of activists.  We simply need to forge ahead demanding respect, our rights and equality whether in the church or in the workplace or in public restrooms.  So in the spirit of Gay Pride, please enjoy celebrating for the rest of this month and continue to demand your Seat at the Table.  Bless Up!




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The Other Side Of Gay Marriage

So, I got married Good Friday to my partner of the past ten years.  Leading up to the day, I kept being asked how I felt and was I excited and my answer, much to everyone’s consternation, was always the same…not really.  Now let me explain, I want to break this down from my viewpoint so it won’t ever need to be asked of me again.  As I have stated in previous posts, this is not because of any lack of love for Johni, my real “Ride or Die Chick”.  It’s more because of having to face the rejection from my blood family because of my “chosen lifestyle”.

Although I put on a brave face for the public, I don’t like rejection either and I have spent years learning how to erect the wall before the fiery darts hit me.  Fiery darts in the form of hurtful words or sentiments regarding my life, not lifestyle but life.  Gay is who I am.  Puberty did not arrive and I suddenly had to make a choice about girls or boys, I always loved women. Period.  A Believer in the Most High is also who I am and who I have always been.  These two things are NOT mutually exclusive, despite what those who don’t get it think.  Trust me when I tell you that God and I have had innumerable conversations about this topic over the years and we’re good with the current situation.

First off, I never really had any concern with the concepts of marriage or children.  I considered myself way to impetuous to be laden down with either.  That may be selfish, but as they say, “To Thine Own Self Be True”.  Plus, being gay, I never imagined that these things would be part of my life equation.  Marriage JUST became legal in the past few years, so I’m trippin when people keep saying, “It’s about time”.  Like I was holding back on making her an “honest woman” or something. Honestly, it wasn’t on my radar when we initially got together.  Plus, none of my “model couple” friends, who have been committed for over 20 years are married and they are extremely blessed.  I figured we were good.  My emphasis has always been on making the actual relationship work and the ceremony/celebration can come afterwards.  I know quite a few couples, both hetero and gay who did all the pomp and circumstance and still ended up crashing and burning in fiery separations.  At first I even resented the push from friends to get married because I felt like I already was.  I mean a relationship is work.  Like Common said in “The Light”, “You know I ain’t the type to walk around with matchin’ shirts
If relationship is effort I will match your work
”.  I felt like once I said “Hey, let’s build something together”, I was all in.  I didn’t think a piece of paper would change anything about the effort I was investing into this relationship.  I didn’t need the validation of the government when I knew that God put us together, because we have both been consulting Him all along.  Anyway, this was just the top layer of reasoning.  The root was even deeper.

I didn’t even want to deal with the real reason for my reluctance.  I had to let the blunt cry for me on this one.  I was forced to face the facts during my conversation with my sister-in-law yesterday.  She texted me to confirm that I indeed got married on Good Friday and why didn’t I tell anyone in the family.  Once the answer formed in my brain and the words were typed, the old wound was reopened.  “Why? nobody in the family wanted to attend so…”.  Then of course the phone call ensued and I had to explain my position to her.  Once I heard myself verbalize the complete answer, the bleeding was unstoppable.  I refused to let my voice crack when explaining how I wanted to avoid the painful rejection of realizing that my sententious siblings couldn’t set aside their views to celebrate my happiness with me.  Although I have and always will consistently support their life events and their children’s events…simply because I love them and we are blood.  If religion is the reason then let me point out the hypocrisy.  Even Jesus hung out with sinners. Like Jadakiss said on Rapture, “If you ain’t God it ain’t in your actions to judge It is what it is turns into it was what it was”.

In my opinion, what is being conveyed when family chooses not to support me because of my “lifestyle” is that we’re cool but you really think I’m going to hell because I am gay and you want to distance yourself from that.  Also, I’m great to eat and joke with, I’m good to babysit my nieces and nephews but not good enough to celebrate my type of love.  As if celebrating me finding someone to love me unconditionally, just as you all did, will contaminate you somehow.  But, it’s fine, because I forgive you and I made peace with this a long time ago.  It was just hard reopening old wounds that I thought had scabbed over permanently.  I have been to a few gay weddings where the situation was similar.  All the supportive friends gather around the happy couple but the unspoken pain of no family members being present is palpable.  I guess that’s why real family is more than who shares your DNA.  This is also why there is an LGBTQ community, to hold each other up for life events such as this.  I never wanted to be that couple, but now that it’s been done and I survived, I have reached another level of freedom.  I’ve also reached another level of faith, because you know God always has that ram in the bush.

Connecting with my Cayonne family has been one of the best things to happen to me in my life.  The unconditional love from all of them, from Trinidad to Toronto to Cali and NYC, has been so affirming.  They all met me and accepted me for exactly who I am, along with my life partner, my wife, no questions asked.  None of them are gay, as far as I know, yet there was no judgment about my “lifestyle”.  No judgment, only respect and love, as it should be.  I even discovered new family members living right here in Maryland who despite meeting me only back in February have embraced and supported me thoroughly.  The circumstances of our meeting were so random that only God could have orchestrated this blessing.  Shout out to Auntie Eastlynne, James and Regine.

God is so awesome that even when I didn’t know how to celebrate the blessing of love that He hooked me up with, He sent friends and family to show me how.  I will be forever grateful for this.  Now that I’ve had this wedding ring on for the past few days, I admit that I smile whenever I see the glint on my left hand.  Saying “my wife” is getting more natural rolling off my tongue.  The best part has been receiving well wishes from people I didn’t even know were watching on social media.  As I am learning, it’s the kind words and small gestures that mean the most in life…these things give me life.  So, the next time you want to skip a family member’s gay wedding because you don’t support the “lifestyle”, please consider putting aside to your beliefs to show unconditional love, you know, like the Jesus you believe in said to do.  Until next time, Peace and Blessings.

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Holler If You Hear Me Review

This documentary struck quite a few nerves in me, because as you know, my last post was on this very subject.  Mr. Cane successfully illuminated much of the hypocrisy experienced by myself and others raised in the Black church.  The two things that resonated with me the most were the feelings of inadequacy and shame experienced by the leader of the youth shelter, and the resilient spirit of the abused young lady that had the accident.  I also was in my feelings about the couple who got married, without the blessing of her Mother, but I will share that in a future post.  I have only attended one affirming church here in the DC area, and it was such a relief for my gayness to be a non-issue.  The Vision Church shown in the documentary seems very COGICish for my taste but I would definitely visit if I was in Atlanta.  This is an excellent film that can be used to simply gain empathy for what LGBT people experience in the pursuit of trying to worship God corporately, as the Bible instructs.

I have always wanted to share my wisdom with other LGBT youth in the church but there is really no proper way to go about offering my advice.  After seeing this documentary, I know that there are others that need to hear my story and that I AM on the right path to using the gifts God has blessed me with.  #MemoirsOfABitterBitch coming soon.

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