I'm pleased to be one of the folks blogging for the UUA's Social Justice Office this week; my offering to Freedom to Marry week will be published at the blog Inspired Faith, Effective Action on Saturday the 14th. The topic of that post will be our local project "Proposal 2009: Standing on the Side of Love" and how it came about.
But there's a backstory to that story. It goes back a long way, to the mid-70's, when I did not know that any of my friends or acquaintances were gay or lesbian, much less what it meant to be bisexual or transgender or intersex. I was a young mother at the time, married, a school counselor, pretty uninformed about a lot of issues, particularly this one.
One day I got a letter from a good friend from college. This is a paraphrase of her words: "Dear Kit, thanks for your note. I have been in a terrible car accident. Actually, it was no accident---I tried to kill myself by driving off the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland. Paramedics patched me up and got me to the hospital. It was touch and go for awhile, but I'll be okay. The reason I did it was, well, I have to be honest. I'm a lesbian but I hope we can still be friends."
That was my first awareness of the misery that being a closeted gay/lesbian person can bring. My friend had always been cheerful, funny, talented, smart. Now I was finding out that she had been faking it all the years I'd known her, that she was so desperately unhappy that she had attempted suicide in an effort to find peace.
Her situation opened my eyes to the injustice that bglt people can face in our fearful and bigoted world. Not long after this, I learned that two of my former school counselees were gay; I began to hear the words "so gay" and "faggot" used as insults and started correcting kids when they used these expressions. It became known around my junior high that "Ms. K" could be trusted and girls came to talk about their love for another girl; suicidal kids came to talk about their desperation and fear that they were gay. Bglt faculty members trusted me enough to be "out" with me about their relationships at a time when a gay teacher was considered a threat.
Out of that awakening in my life has grown a commitment to advocacy for sexual minorities. After I retired from school counseling and went on to seminary, I discovered the disparities between our UU belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person and the punitive and restrictive attitudes of many other mainline denominations. Only a few denominations have the freedom we do---to welcome bglt folks into our congregations, into the ministry, to perform weddings between same sex couples. And those who want that freedom find that church law and/or congregational attitudes prevent them from having it.
As a minister, I've actively politicked against anti-gay laws in Oregon, marched in Pride parades, married same sex couples, advocated for marriage equality with the legislature and preached about justice repeatedly. As a human being, I cherish my lesbian and gay friends and neighbors.
And in response to those who think that homosexuality is a bad thing, a punishable act, a way of living to be shunned and shamed, I want to ask this question: why would God create beings who are physically attracted to their own gender and then punish them by not allowing them to be the creation God made? All of creation is good and beautiful and deserves life. Every being has a place in the universe. Every being deserves to love and to be loved, to cherish and to be cherished, to be itself in all the glory that the Creator has given it.
Long ago a young girl talked to me about how ashamed she felt because she was attracted to girls, not boys. Her church and her parents were trying to force her into a mold that just didn't fit for her, telling her that she would go to hell if she didn't change. As her counselor, I couldn't tell her about my life-saving religion, but I could say to her, "honey, it's okay to be who you are. We need more love in this world, not less." I hope she heard me.