NaBloPoMo

So I have spent a month blogging, and I loved it. I have had the opportunity to share a sermon (voice file and text), what I think about bookselling (and retail in general), reviews of a book, an exhibition and a gig. I’ve also learned that liveblogging is a bad idea (it’s more like word vomit!).

It’s been a lot of fun but I think from now on I’ll stick to what I do best, and just blog when I have something to say. And the world breathes a sigh of relief!

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The launch of Living it Out

Today, Living it Out launched in a church in Islington. Sarah and Rachel (the couple who authored the book) arranged with their publishers a lovely ‘do’, attended by a number of the contributors, friends and family.

I was surprised at how moved I was by the event, particularly the readings from the book (which I’ve not read yet); by how much hurt there is and yet also how much grace and simple truth there is to speak.

Being a gay Christian (or a lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer, polyamorous, asexual, curious Christian) is about so much more than “The Debate”. We’re living it, and I’m so privileged to have been given the opportunity to share that.

On mistakes

I’ve made a few mistakes this week. That’s nothing unusual, I do make many more than a few mistakes most weeks. I have tried to apologise to the people that I have hurt, but I think I have overstepped the line. All I can do now is sit back and pray.

Living it Out

I finally held a copy of Living it Out in my hands today! It arrived at my workplace yesterday and I was just so excited. Ignore that Waterstone’s don’t think it’s published yet, it definitely is available.

If you’re planning to buy the book, it would be great if you could do it from a shop; persuade your local bookshop to keep a copy in. We need people to be able to see this book on shelves in mainstream shops. We need people to see that it is possible to be L/G/B and Christian, and that there are people out there just like them.

On that note, please request it from Christian bookshops; let them know that we are waiting for people to sit up and listen!

Congratulations particularly to Sarah and Rachel Hagger-Holt, this is a tremendous thrill and could really change some lives. Congratulations also to the other contributors including LilWatcherGirl and My Wife.

www.livingitout.com

Role models

Once again, this was sparked by someone else’s musings. This morning, a friend I follow on Twitter was looking for people’s role models in order to find pictures for a presentation. I had a quick scan through the replies, and there were some interesting suggestions. Graham Coxon, “my mum” (lots of people’s mums, not everyone looking up to my mum) and apparently she eventually settled for her own role model, the brilliant Ellen DeGeneres (incidentally, check out Ellen dancing with Barack Obama).

I originally came up with two people; a very dear friend who is pastor of the Big Easy Metropolitan Community Church of Greater New Orleans, and then for the sake of having someone famous, Mr. Stephen Fry.

The reason I came up with Stephen Fry is perhaps obvious to you. When I read Moab is my Washpot, I was struck by a number of things. Firstly, that he has a very clear and direct outlook on life that is actually pretty refreshing, secondly that he has a security about his sexuality that I admire deeply and that I feel we don’t see very much even in this age of supposed freedom, and finally that he is able to accept and acknowledge his mental health difficulties as a part of him without making excuses or pretending he is anything other than who he is. That sort of security in one’s identity is brilliant and hard to find in people. It is something I aspire to, and the reason I count him as a role model. Of course, the fact he is a classicist and brilliant general knowledge buff, and a very funny individual are all part of that, too.

But then there are all the other people who’ve touched my life. In no particutlar order:

  • My whole family, my brilliantly talented sister, mum and dad, Granny Prue and Grandpa who had so much faith in God, G&G who have taught me what family is, and my fabulously diverse cousins, who are the smartest people I know; 
  • my friends – every single one of them – who have held my hands, prayed with me, let me cry and given me much-needed cuddles and kisses;
  • the people who have shared my living space graciously and given me someone to come home to;
  • the woman I shared my life with for two years, who will always hold a special place in my heart and taught me a lot about sincerity;
  • ‘My Wife’, who shows more maturity and courage at 18 than I think I have ever had;
  • the teachers who took the time to look out for me, who supervised school trips, or who are the reason I have such a passion for learning;
  • the wonderful conductor of the first wind band I played in, who was the first person to give me faith in my musical ability; 
  • my flute and piano teacher, who deserves to be canonised; 
  • everyone who has ministered to me, lay and ordained, and prayed for me and given me time and space;
  • girl at school who kept in touch with me when she left the sixth form (even though I was only a year seven), told me it was ok to be gay, and gave me some self-belief; 
  • the administrator of my academic department at university, who kept me at university through the worst of times;
  • the former presidents of UCLU LGB Society who took me under their wings and showed me what it means to achieve things for other people; 
  • the sabbs who came before me and the ones who are doing the job now; 
  • everyone who has had a kind word or a smile for me when I was low.

I love you all. Each of us has the power to make a difference in someone’s life, and the best we can aspire to is to make a positive difference in someone’s life. I wouldn’t be who I was if it weren’t for you all. If I can do justice to your influence on my life I will consider that I have been greatly blessed.

Thank you.

Transgender Day of Remembrance and National Anti-Bullying Week

This reflection was published in the newsletter of MCC North London on Thursday, 26th November 2009

On Saturday, it was the tenth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Every 20th November we gather as a community to remember the trans men and women who have died as victims of hate crime.

Hate crime takes a number of forms. In its most extreme, it leads to murder. The murder of Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square, or David Morley on the Embankment, or the brutal and unnecessary deaths at the Admiral Duncan pub ten years ago. But there are other things that happen that are dismissed. The people who call us names in the street, who make assumptions about others’ gender identities and discriminate against them for it, even the people who were bullies at school. This is all hate crime, and it is all damaging.

When people die as a result of hate crime, it is not always because they are physically beaten by their persecutors. These mental beatings take their toll. It is estimated that 50% of young trans people attempt suicide at least once. In the LGBT community as a whole, rates of depression, self-harm and addiction are higher than in the general population. This is not a coincidence, nor is it because we are naturally disordered. It is because we face such discrimination on a daily basis.

And in that spirit, we should also remember the victims of bullying. It is anti-bullying week and we know that the victims of bullying today may be the suicide victims we are remembering tomorrow. A single act of bullying can be so devastating to a young person as to lead to all sorts of mental health and emotional problems later in life. Bullying is not normal, it is not a rite of passage, it is a devastating and life-changing thing to happen to someone. Sustained over a course of years it can destroy self-esteem and erode hope in someone’s life.

The bullies will also suffer, those who torment others doubtless suffer countless torments themselves. The young woman of 18 who has been charged with the murder of Ian Baynham will never get her life back. She will forever be marked as “different” and probably even as “bad”. Her life has been destroyed because she was never taught that it is wrong to persecute those who are different.

So this week, as well as praying for victims of transphobic hate crime and all forms of bullying, let us think about what we can do to make the world a better place. Report it when someone assaults you in the street, refuse to accept that “it’s just a part of life”. Do not let hate-speak go unchallenged, have the courage to correct people who make ignorant and hurtful remarks about what they cannot possibly understand. If you are in a position to do so, share your own story with a young person who will be given strength from it; maybe even write to your old school and tell them about your experiences. A few acts of harm can destroy a life, a few careful acts of kindness may rebuild someone.

We are all one body of Christ; it’s time to look after each other.

We had church

As Delores Berry would say, tonight we had church!

There was so much power in the worship, people were really letting go and singing like they meant it. The worship leader spoke powerfully on her transformative experiences in the last few months, the intern who preached gave a wonderful message on Christ the King, and the crown of forgiveness Christ empowers us to wear. I felt, for the first time celebrating communion, able to fully understand what a blessing it is to be allowed to serve the congregation in that way. I left feeling elated. There was a joy and peace in my heart that reminded me what it is to know the grace and love of Christ.

May you all know that love in your lives.