A Random Post on a Random Afternoon

I’m being vain today.  I now fit into a size 12 again.  This makes me happy.  No longer am I an extra-large person.  This is very exciting for me. :)

Equally as lovely is listening to my Meat Loaf CD.  I love Jim Steinman’s music, and Meat Loaf delivers it so well.  Good job, kids.  Keep up the good work.  Gotta love all that piano and power chords.

And now I am catching up on COSMOS episodes.  Science, science, science!  Glorious science!  It has implications for me beyond what it might have for others.  Learning about “neutrinos,” and loving it.

Blessed Be Spring Break

We camped in the Ocala National Forest for two days earlier this week.  We discovered a magic there that hasn’t stopped calling since we left the Ozarks.  Now that I know it’s there, I feel much more alive here in Florida.

Southwest Florida is….sunny, yes.  Beautiful, yes.  Gorgeous beaches.  Gorgeous people.  It’s also a tourist destination and a home for the elderly from up north.  Definitely glad we moved here, but the area lacks something, that magic I referenced.  Everything caters to tourism and seems artificial.  Fort Myers is a mid-size town spread out enough so that it takes a while to get anywhere.  The art and music scene is dismal.  The local newspaper is a journalistic joke.  Everything costs–$2.00 to park at the beach, $6.00 to get to Sanibel Island, an additional $2.00 to park on Sanibel (per hour), and on and on.  A. and I continuously are amazed that Springfield, MO has more culture than where we are now.

But then we went to Ocala and were in the woods and in the mineral springs and hiking trails (6 miles in 1 morning! Awesome!) and generally reconnecting with ourselves, each other, and the natural world.  So what if we both got chigger and tick bites?  So what if an inch-long spider was discovered outside the campground bathroom just meters away from our tent?  We saw lakes and rivers and sinkholes and clear blue waters and jungle and pine trees and sand scrub forest and birds and raccoons and deer.  We woke up with the sun and cuddled warmly together in our tent at night under mounds of blankets.  Some of the best sleep and rest and activity we’ve had since moving here.

In the car driving home, we both vowed to bring the experience home.  And so far, it’s working.  I’m happy where we are, even if Ft. Myers is bizarrely lacking in the arts.  I’m writing again, so there’s that.  And the magic comes from inside, this I know.  Here’s to love and truth in the Universe.

Lake Eaton

Lake Eaton

Being Gay at Bible College

Author’s Note:  I wrote this article for BJUnity several months ago and recently rediscovered it in my drafts folder.  The chapel services mentioned in the article took place in November 2013, and audio of the services was given to us so that it would be made available to anyone who wants to know what goes on behind the chapel doors of Fundamentalism (thanks to our good friends at BJU News).

Since these horrendous and completely misinformed attempts at “explaining” homosexuality, BJU has been in the media again for its firing of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.), a third-party organization hired by the University to investigate, objectively, how Bob Jones U handles reports of sexual abuse.  GRACE worked for over a year collecting surveys filled out by past and present students as well as conducting interviews in person and over the phone.  I was one of those participants.  Even though I never had an in-person interview, the entire process was still exhausting and terrifying.  Even though I, personally, have never been sexually abused, per say, I was sexually harassed, both in regular life and at BJU.  I had a stalker for two years on campus (another student) and was told that he would receive “spiritual counseling” if it continued and that I should trust God.  Never once was I encouraged to report this student to the police.  Never once was I informed that stalking is a punishable offense by the law.  Also, while at Bob Jones, on a mission trip actually, I and the other women on the mission team were forced to sit through a scolding by our male team leader, in front of the males in our group as well, as he came down rather harshly on how we dressed.  Now, none of us ladies are what you might call curvy, and what prompted this talk was that three young Korean men who were practicing martial arts outside the subway station came up to one of the girls in our group and told her she was beautiful.  Our team leader told us that if we’d been appropriately dressed, that would have never happened, that those young men were lusting and that it was our fault for being immodest.  I remember feeling skeezy afterward, sick to my stomach that we’d just been objectified by this man for “the glory of God.”

All that providing some sort of context–about a month before GRACE was due to finalize its report on BJU’s handling of reports of sexual abuse, BJU inexplicably fired GRACE.  This created an uproar in several different communities–Greenville, SC, Fundamentalist circles, Evangelical circles, etc, and even was picked up by the New York Times.  After three weeks of going nowhere, BJU rehired GRACE.  I would encourage anyone to read the links posted here, as they give much more information than what I can adequately express.

So much thanks to friends and allies all across the country who are getting involved to shine the light of love and truth inside the dark, dank caves of Fundamentalist mentality that is so rampant in institutions such as Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College: John Shore, Unfundamentalist Christians, Phil Snider, and Hannah Proctor, just to name a few.  This fight is just about gay rights in the church or in the country.  It’s about exposing the toxins and spiritual abuse that permeate nearly every interaction with Fundamentalist culture and the hold it has on our society, much to the dismay of those who have never encountered it first-hand. It’s for Christians and pagans and agnostics and atheists and Hindus and Buddhists.  It’s a human rights issue, and we are working every day to illuminate more.


 

November 2013.

This week, every chapel service at Bob Jones University is dedicated to the Biblical response to homosexuality.  Upon hearing this news, my heart sank for every single student that has to sit through these services. The harm these services create in everyone who listens is impossible to describe.

I don’t remember a lot of details that dealt with homosexuality specifically from my time at Bob Jones University .  What I do remember is, I believe, very telling.  My sophomore year, Bob Jones III read an “angry” letter from a lesbian woman as proof that homosexuality creates, or is possibly a result of, utter depravity.  While I don’t recall everything the letter said, I know that the writer said she no longer believed the lies she’d heard as a student at BJU so many years ago.  “Dr. Bob” ripped into her in a way that shocked me.  At the time, I couldn’t say for sure what I believed about my own sexuality (doubting it, I’m sure, at odds with myself), but the vitriolic tone he took toward her in his public response exhibited nothing of Christlike behavior.  He took pride and pleasure at being able to tear her down.  I remember my surprise then anger that a professed man of God could and would hide behind the mask of Christian superiority to mock and publicly humiliate, slander, and destroy the reputation of another human being.  He, of course, followed this up with the familiar plea to the student body that if “this University ever falls away from God, close the doors of this institution,” or something like that.

Another incident I remember happened the second semester of my freshman year when George W. Bush was looking at making DOMA more hetero-friendly (as if it weren’t already).  Bob Jones III begged us as students to write to our Senators and Representatives to back up the President and protect America for God.  Much to my dismay today, I wrote to my Senator, pleading that she support marriage between one man and one woman.  Today, I am so ashamed of this action on my part.  What surprised me is that she wrote me back, explaining states’ rights and why DOMA violated these rights. She encouraged me to contact her with any further questions.  Now, I don’t believe that if I would have written back that she would remember me.  But I was impressed, and quieted, by her graceful response to my emotional outburst.  I began to think that perhaps all I knew was wrong.

Artist's Series September 2002 at BJU

Artist’s Series September 2002 at BJU

I remember the general attitude amongst the student body toward the homosexual lifestyle and gay agenda to be reflective of the administration’s attitude.  First, everyone really thought that there is a gay agenda and that it is to tear down the family, the nation, and the will of God.  Apparently this made it ok to vilify and mock those who “struggle with same-sex attraction.”  My sophomore year, one of the biggest stories in the women’s dorms was of a group of five women who were kicked out for allegedly showering together in a massive lesbian orgy.  People weren’t shocked so much; they were disgusted and made crude jokes.  Another example of the culture toward the gay community was that for a period of time (maybe still today) one of the male dorms was known as the “gay” dorm.  Guys would make jokes about being molested at night, waking up with sore rear ends, etc.  At the time, it was all a part of being a student at Bob Jones University.  Having been out of that for several years now, I see it as being, at best, a horrific denial of sexual abuse.

All of this and more to say, I know what it’s like.  I know what it’s like to push down the feelings and the hurt and the reality that I didn’t fit in.  And I remember when it all added up to enough, and when I started to stop caring, and when I got so depressed that my best friend dragged me to a counselor, and when the depression gave way to fury.  Fury because I knew that somehow I’d been lied to about the nature of God, the nature of reality, the nature of religion and fundamentalism.  Fury because people I’d trusted had knowingly hidden the truth.

I left.  I had to.  If I hadn’t, I would have been expelled though I’d done nothing wrong other than question the University.  And leaving didn’t make the hurt go away.  I had to search myself and everything I’d grown up with.  Some of it I rejected, and some of it I held on to, and perhaps most importantly, I added to myself by embracing more than the limited perspectives of my childhood and my education.

When I was at Bob Jones, there was no group like BJUnity to help me.  I came to the realization of myself mostly by myself.  But becoming a part of BJUnity a couple years ago helped me heal the wounds I was still carrying around.

For some students at Bob Jones University, leaving is not an option for one reason or another.  Protect yourselves.  Do not give in to the rhetoric of the pulpit.  Do not surrender your rights thinking the administration will help you.  Reach out for honest help.

For those students, and for anyone else struggling with reconciling their faith and self-worth to their inborn sexuality, let BJUnity help.  We remember.  We know.

 

Stopovers

Something’s happening inside my heart.

I’ve begun writing about it.

Maybe this is the time.  Wait, well, it must be the time.

I’m feeling good lately.  Happy.  More than that, even.  Content.

Work is great. School is great. My students are beyond wonderful–beautiful, soulful, confused, Searching.  Finding.  Opening.  Growing.

Florida is a nice, tidy stopover place for us.  It’s been almost a year now.  Crazy.  8 months.  Oh man, the strangest metaphor just breezed through my mind.   Almost 9 months and ready to give birth to something new.  9 months to get used to the idea of a different life.

Stopover.

Lots of characters around here.  The cop living downstairs thinks he’s Magnum PI but has none of Tom Selleck’s natural charm.  He dates a super-skinny blonde girl and ignores his chocolate Labrador, but he never hesitates to say, “How’s it going?” when we see each other outside.  A frail, petite Haitian woman hand-washes her clothes each week in the laundry room sink and sings hymns in Creole, her bare feet pressing hard against the concrete floor as she wrings out her skirts and blouses.  A middle-aged lady confined to a wheelchair dutifully does her own chores and accepts very little help, but her attitude never is bitter or resigned, just matter-of-fact.

And, of course, there’s the two of us with our cats and our gay-ness and our random fights that always end up in dancing to Kate Bush in the living room and the way that we love each other so much now and have become closer than anything we ever thought possible.

The writing has begun, the writing of the experiences that brought me here and will bring me on into the world I love, creating my own reality of peace and goodwill and learning and truth.

Something that’s always bothered me is how sloppy it all has to be before the real stuff shines through. But it’s time that I stop waiting for the dark times before I really express what’s inside.

Till tomorrow then.

Don’t Sleep–or Blink–in Class.

Today I thought, “Hey, it’s almost Halloween.  I know what I’ll do.  I’ll show the episode of Doctor Who called ‘Don’t Blink’ to my middle-schoolers.  It’ll give them something interesting to write about.”

Holy cow, they CRIED.  Cried.  I felt so bad.  I forgot how scary the Weeping Angels are at first encounters.  One of my students was so worried about it that she interrogated me after class to make sure she wouldn’t be sent back in time when she falls asleep tonight.

We have to finish the episode in class tomorrow, otherwise they won’t see the happy ending….well, the bittersweet ending….the really cool ending :).  But note to self:  Do not think that just because it’s Halloween means it’s ok to show mildly scary stuff to young teens. I’m sorry, children, that I made you afraid of statues.  It was never my intention, and now I have a lot more work ahead to undo this thing from your mind.

Where’s the straight Pride? It’s not fair.

ipreferpeace:

Straight Up

Originally posted on JACK MONROE:

“Where’s the straight Pride? Why do the gays get a special day to themselves? It’s not fair.”

If I had a pound for every time I was asked that question, well, I’d have quite a few pounds.

Straight Pride is being able to walk down the street holding hands with your other half without being catcalled by groups of teenage boys hanging around on a street corner.

Straight Pride is being able to walk into a club or a bar without someone threatening you, without men putting protective arms around the women they are with and glaring at you. (Because gay women fancy ALL women, don’t you know? Especially the ones with large, insecure boyfriends attached. Challenge, innit.)

Straight Pride is being able to tick the ‘straight’ box on an equality and diversity monitoring form at work without wondering who might actually read it, and what their views might be…

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The Groove of Teaching

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I’m not sure if I’ll ever get this teaching thing, if I’ll ever be effective.  At least, that’s the way it feels right now.  But I do have ideas, and my students will be my figurative guinea pigs (I’m glad I don’t teach literal guinea pigs, for I have no patience with their shrill cries).  Starting next week, I’m abandoning the status quo of online learning and teaching half of my classes  through the NaNoWriMo website.

I’m sure many of my readers know of NaNoWriMo.  For those who don’t, here goes.  NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month which annually begins November 1 and ends November 30th.  The point is to just write–no self-editing, no self-judging, no writer’s block–just write!  To “win,” participants must verify that in the 30 days of NaNoWriMo they write at least 50,000 words, which is approximately 150 pages.  The other rules are simple.  The writing cannot begin until midnight of November 1st.  What that looks like is this.

“Happy Halloween!  Yay!  Candy!  I’m gonna stuff myself into a sugar coma!  But wait!  it’s almost midnight.  November 1 is almost here.  That means in approximately 13 minutes, I can begin NaNo-ing!  Forget you, candy!  Give someone else cavities.  It’s time to write.”

Easy enough.  However, participants can plan their novels in advance, creating character sketches, outlines, plot details, etc so that when November 1 arrives, the writing may commence without delay.

Now, for the classroom, this is a daunting task, especially as most of my students are low-level, at-risk learners.  I despise the online learning as it’s quite difficult for a computer to teach writing; also, I know enough about myself that even I would want to give up after staring at a computer for six hours a day. Ick.  And I’m fairly self-motivated to boot, so I can only imagine how disastrous it is for girls with little motivation and low self-esteem to study this way.

Luckily for me, though, NaNoWriMo started a Young Writer’s Program so that students of all ages can participate by setting their own writing goals.  The NaNo people were also kind enough to create Common Core English Language Arts lesson plans that I can use throughout October, November, and December to teach the elements of writing, prewriting, editing, proofreading, and revising.  This is glorious.  GLORIOUS.  And my Academic Manager approved it.

One downside of where I work is that I am the only English teacher.  I don’t have a Department Head to talk to or other teachers to ask questions of.  But with just a little bit of ingenuity, I think I’ll be ok.  My will is strong and my motivation to help girls learn is high.  Here goes.