The Significance of HUD’s Anti-Discrimination Ruling
By Jamie Citron on January 30, 2012
“Today, I am proud to announce a new equal access to housing rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose.”
—Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
That statement drew a standing ovation from LGBT advocates gathered at this past weekend’s “Creating Change” conference. Having organized in the LGBT community since 2007, I’m far too familiar with the stories of families put through hardships because they tried to rent or purchase a home together — like Michelle DeShane, a woman who wanted to add her partner Mitch, a transgender man, to her housing voucher. The couple was referred to an agency in a neighboring jurisdiction after being told they didn’t fit the local agency’s definition of a family. I’ve also HEARD too many stories of LGBT homeless youth who have been rejected from, or made to feel unsafe in, homeless youth shelters due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Continue Reading »
by Soulforce Admin
Photo Credit: Shirin K.A. Winiger
By Equality Rider Ryan Barnette
I remember the game well. A kid would pick up a ball on our elementary school playing field. We would then yell, “He’s the queer—get him!” We chased him through the football field, around the swing sets, and onto the baseball diamond, where we finally knocked him over and jumped one after the other onto him. We smeared the queer.
In high school, we called Jeffrey Dooly a “faggot.” We shouted it down the hallways at him and, if he entered a restroom we were using, we left quickly with that word on our breath. There was no way we would let him tag us with his gayness.
College was one massive game of hide and seek. My eyes, full of longing, followed a cute peer as he walked by. If he happened to glance back, I shifted my gaze and hid in some deeper recess of my soul. I feared that if I dropped my straight public persona and revealed all of my hidden desires, no one would find me worth seeking.
We can handle only so many games, so many rounds of our hearts playing tug of war against our minds, before we split in two. Leading two lives, one relegated to the dark, leaves us isolated and afraid of the light. I wonder what choice in the matter I had as a youth. My parents said that I was not to associate with gay people. My pastor said that gay people were sick. My classmates said that “gay” meant “stupid.” It seemed crucial to disassociate from the part of me that my parents, pastor, and classmates feared.
My saving grace was a community of faith called Fusion. And that is exactly what the small gathering of LGBTQ and affirming folks did for me: they fused my two selves. The scared, hidden Ryan finally embraced the Ryan desperately struggling to be accepted. Brennan Manning wrote, “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.” At Fusion, I heard life stories fully told, even the messy bits. This group of unashamed, joyous people shone the light on the path to wholeness.
Coming out and claiming all of me, I learned how to stop fearing and how to start genuinely loving myself and others. This wasn’t a pain-free process. Coming out to my parents meant hearing some of the most piercing words ever used against me. Consumed in shock and fear, my mom and dad threw words like “disgusting,” “completely disgraceful,” and “unlovable” at my exposed heart as if it were a dartboard.
It took time and many difficult conversations, but my parents put away their darts and received my forgiveness in full. I’ve seen a horrible mess rebuilt and repurposed for good. Having seen the positive transformation in my family is how I know that everyone possesses such deep potential for change. Having seen the resulting growth in our relationship is how I know change is worth pursuing.
Because of my journey so far, I’m joining the 2012 Equality Ride. We will travel across the country, announcing that cruel games are over. It is not OK to play with the lives of others. Make it safe to leave dark, suffocating closets. Put down your darts and dodge balls, the damaging words easily thrown yet irretrievable. Create safe, smear-free environments for everyone. There is a creative spirit calling all of us to play. But the name of the game is love.
About the Blogger:
Ryan Barnette’s perfect day includes hot tea, a game of Catan, Japanese fiction, and increased justice for the disenfranchised.
|SOULFORCE EQUALITY RIDE 2012
We’re Off To A Great Start!
We Hit the Road in 37 Days
The Soulforce Equality Ride 2012 hits the road in just 37 days. We are thrilled to announce that 12 years of relentless non-violent resistance has worked with Focus on the Family. Finally, we have an official invitation to
engage in peaceful dialogue with their executives. http://www.youtube.com/movie?v=BSe4eet3tuE&feature=mv_sr
We are grateful for that “blame” because it means that the arc of justice is bending deeply towards the freedom that we all want and need.
In this pre-presidential election period, we are watching candidates and their “handlers” and secret (and not so secret) funders use our lives like bargaining chips at the temple table. Jesus confronted those money-changers for failing to provide justice to the vulnerable.
And, we will confront them as well. I think it is fair to say that there has never been a more important time for the Soulforce Equality Ride to make its way through middle America than now.
We need your help in the next 10 days. During this time, we must firm up reservations for hotels in each city on the bus route.
Do you know a hotel owner or event professional, a friend or colleague or group of congregants who could donate 8 double-bed rooms at the same hotel for the 4 days that we are in each city?
We have diligently applied for grants for these rooms from major hotel chains, but so far we have no response except for one that was afraid to list its name on our bus.
So, we are hopeful that you know someone you can call and ask if they want to help us. I am happy to join you on the call. We don’t need anything fancy, just safe and clean for the Riders to come home to each night after the hard work that they do in each community. Here are the stops:
Atlanta, March 5th-9th
Nashville, March 10th-14th
Chicago, March 15th-19th
Minneapolis, March 20th-24th
Oklahoma City, March 26th-March 30th
New Orleans, April 1st-5th
Dallas, April 9th-13th
Abilene, April 13th (evening)
Denver, April 15th-19th
Salt Lake City, April 20th-24th
Portland, April 25th-29th
San Francisco, April 30th-May 4th
We know these are tough times. We don’t want to take away from any local giving at your churches or non-profits, so please just help us make calls for rooms. You can contact me at 972-358-5907 any time to get started or just let me know that you’ve already made it happen. Thank you so much for anything you can do to help us.
Love & Peace,
Rev. Dr. Cindi Love
A Great Outcome
From “Willow Creek Drops Exodus International, ‘Ex-Gay’ Ministry” by Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director, Soulforce – Huffington Post 7/22/11
Today is a red letter day at Soulforce, where I work. We practice relentless nonviolent resistance to religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, their families and allies. One of the organizations with whom we have worked, Willow Creek Community Church, has finally ended its formal relationship with Exodus International.
In 2008-2009, Soulforce was on the Willow Creek campus to meet with Pastor Bill Hybels to encourage his congregation to cease its prominent partnership with Exodus, which included “equipping events” at the church to help Willow Creek leaders and other local pastors work with those experiencing same-sex attraction.
Those of us who long for the Church Universal to equip its saints in the walk of peace and justice and inclusion are celebrating today that Willow Creek has found a door in the wall of religious bigotry and walked through it in such a public way.
Thank you, Pastor Bill. Thank you, Willow Creek Elders and Congregants. May the movement of the Holy Spirit continue within your community and one day may we all share a meal at the same Table of Grace.
|What a great start!
P.O. Box 2499
Abilene, Texas 79605
by Soulforce Admin
The 2012 Equality Riders
By Equality Rider Ibrahim Vicks
When I returned back to my daily routine after a week of training with 16 strangers, I knew that my life had been changed. Everyone back home greeted me with hellos and requests for a play by play of my “trip.” But, amidst these encouraging conversations, there was one question that kept coming back to the forefront of my mind, one thing that consumed my thoughts – “How am I going to coordinate a city stop on the ride?”
This goal – the goal that I was charged with upon my leaving Miami – was imprinted in my bones. It was pushing me to work harder every day. I knew when I was offered a position on the 2012 Equality Ride that I was signing up for something much bigger than myself. What I wasn’t prepared for was that my entire life would become oriented toward the success of this year’s ride.
Since our first training, every day that I haven’t done something productive has been a day wasted and lost. I have never been so organized at any other time in my life, never so order-oriented. I admit that, at first, I was afraid of becoming overwhelmed by all of the work that needed to be done. But that was all for naught, because within hours of my return, I got a phone call. I got an email. I got a text message from one of my fellow riders checking up on me to make sure I got home safely, offering any assistance and guidance they had at their disposal, even taking the initiative to get me connected to those who could better help me.
I no longer felt as if I was alone. Instead, I felt that there were people who had my back – no matter what. That feeling is now empowering me to go above and beyond, to set goals for myself as a 2012 Equality Rider and as a person. The Ride has shifted my life toward the service of others, and I wouldn’t have it any other way; the rewards are far greater than the sacrifice. Not only do I get to see the country (for free), but I also get to impact the lives of people that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. We haven’t even left yet, and I already feel my newfound sense of purpose changing both my life the lives of those around me.
by Soulforce Admin
This article was reprinted with permission from The Advocate. The director of programs for Soulforce Equality Ride sees this year’s event as all the more important given the political backdrop it will happen against.
To read the full article, please follow this link: http://www.advocate.com/Politics/Commentary/Oped_While_the_Candidates_Run_We_Ride/
A Letter to Dr. King from a foot solider for all equality…
Dear Dr. Martin Luther King;
A very close clergy friend of mine each year writes a letter to you that assesses the current state of racial and other matters against the background of your significant leadership. His letter is read throughout the United Methodist Church and beyond because of its quality, consistency and his prominence.
Continue Reading »
by Soulforce Admin
Photo Credit: Paul Vallejo
By Equality Rider Chelsea Fullerton
I don’t get the opportunity to fly often, so when I do, I can’t help but stare out the window as much as possible, mesmerized by the striking panorama that is our earth. My flight back to Atlanta from the 2012 Soulforce Equality Ride training in Miami was no exception – plus, I was luckily positioned in a window seat that allowed me to soak up the scenery during my two-hour journey. As the day was overcast and gray, I was struck by the stark transitions visible in the six-by-eight inch frame; the world outside was transformed from dull to brilliant in the span of a few minutes as we pierced the thick cover of clouds and entered the vast expanse of the sky above. The moment sparked within me a combination of awe and reflection.
I thought about the knowledge I had acquired over the whirlwind of the past nine days, and the people from which I acquired it. I thought about the hours we spent discussing classism, racism, ageism, ableism, sexism, heterosexism, and cisgenderism, and the structures formed by these paradigms that ultimately enable the privileged to exercise their power over the marginalized. I thought about the hurt that I saw in the faces of each of us as we were forced to come to terms with things within ourselves that caused us to feel shame, anger, and regret – lingering reminders of the pervasive influence of these structures. And I thought about the incredible bond that we formed as a result of our journey together, the love that united us in a collective commitment to work against these oppressive forces, under which we all must live and promote true equality for all.
What I remember most fondly about those nine days of intentional conversation, shared meals, powerful stories, and blissful laughter were the moments, however brief, that took us above the clouds of oppression in our own lives. Make no mistake – we felt the weightiness of prejudice and discrimination, and the powerlessness that comes with our inability to protect ourselves and those we care about from their shadow. We felt the unnerving darkness of the financial insecurity, familial tension, and uncertainty about the future that awaited us upon our return to the places we called home. In other words, even in an environment where we were each loved and respected unconditionally, we could not escape the cruel reminders of the injustices in which we live.
But interspersed throughout these moments of pain, frustration, and fear were other moments – singular instances of almost otherworldly nature. In those moments, we pierced the gray haze. In those moments, we soared together. They took place unexpectedly, serendipitously. They happened when we were vulnerable, sharing our hearts with one another. They happened when we silently stood in a circle, holding hands that gently transferred our squeezed expression of love. They happened when our voices joined to sing the evocative, resounding chorus, “We’ll flood the streets with justice; we are freedom bound.” They happened when we wept tears of joyful poignancy, realizing that our souls have become inexplicably intertwined with sixteen others.
It is for these moments, I realize, that we press on through the seemingly endless days of gray, for they are what remind us that we are part of a story much greater than ourselves. After all, from afar, the clouds are merely spots – pinpricks compared to the measureless expanse of the beauty that, though at times hidden, constantly surrounds us. The Equality Ride exists to bring people into that beauty, to remind them that the sunlight is real when darkness is all that they can see. It is through these realizations that lives are saved, hearts are renewed, and justice is accomplished. I am both honored and humbled to have experienced what life is like above the clouds, and dedicate the coming months – and beyond – to ensuring that all see the light.
About the Blogger:
An advocate and ally from Athens, GA, Chelsea wholeheartedly believes in the fundamental worth of all people and strives to empower them to gain the tools and opportunities that they need to find meaning in life.
Connect with Chelsea:
Facebook | Twitter | Flickr