Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Say SEX in church!

It goes like this:
Step 1: Visit the main page for the national AIDS organization of a major US mainline denomination.
Step 2: Search 'safer sex', since you're looking for potential funding for your congregation's new safer sex kits.
Step 3: Be puzzled that not a single hit came up in the search. (3a: forge onward.)
Step 4: On a sneaking hunch, search 'sex.'

Sorry, no results where found for this search term: "sex"

Step 5: Whap head on desk. (Repeat this step several times.)

Come on, friends. Get it together. And it's not that this makes this particular coalition a bad one or that is lessens their desire to truly achieve a reality of no new diagnoses within this generation. And shoot, I may have been misunderstanding the search function on their website. But the fact remains that it is unacceptable for a major national denomination to run a HIV coalition and not talk about sex!

So you valiant (few) who read this, your charge is this: next time you're in church or any other setting in which we may be hesitant to speak fully about what fighting HIV means, do something that sets that stage. You do not have to talk about your own life or the sex that you are or are not having. (In fact, if you're the pastor or a Sunday school teacher that would probably be supremely inappropriate! Avoid being inappropriate.) These can be words of resurrection, but we have to say them first.

And meanwhile, if you find an organization that wants to fund a couple thousand condoms and lube packets for my church, please do let me know. (The church ladies are ready and waiting to set up the safer sex kit assembly line.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I went to an all-day meeting this weekend. To put it quite bluntly, there were some seriously problematic age and gender dynamics going on in the room throughout the day. As we drove home, my housemate and I were talking about it and I realized that I have never been so aware of being young and female - and the power differential that implies - than I was during that meeting. It sucked and I'm still sort of processing my feelings about that. But the words "welcome to our world" certainly come to mind. How often in my almost-24 years of life have I really felt that on a personal level? Not that many. It's humbling to realize that I may have a concept of oppression, but it is still a relatively strange taste in my own mouth.

If that is true, then what does authentic solidarity look like for me?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Threads of separation and supportive networks

Families. Families are really important. Families are especially important to young people. Housing becomes home (or doesn't) based on the support and love created by a family.

Yesterday I was privileged to spend the morning at the White House Conference on LGBT Housing and Homelessness at Wayne State University (here in Detroit). As I sat and listened to the panels - first, a panel made up of four high-level members of the Obama Administration (HUD and HHS in particular) and the SE Michigan US Attorney; then the directors of three programs whose work focuses on providing housing and wrap-around services to homeless LGBT youth - I was struck by just how important it is that we meet not only the immediate needs for shelter among (in particular) young people, but also the emotional needs.

Queer youth make up about 7% of youth, nationally, yet a full 40% of homeless youth are LGBT-identified. At least half of those are homeless because they have been directly rejected by the very support network that is supposed to play a positive role in human development - family. Often, queer youth are further victimized within the systems that are set up to serve them, pushed into the adult shelter system at 18 or 21, frequently lacking, as the director of the Ali Forney Center attested, some of the developmental skills that a lot of us get more-or-less by osmosis. The trauma of rejection is compounded by having to navigate systems just to have needs met. I don't begin to know what this is like. Every family has internal dynamics, of course, but I never had to fill out paperwork to get face time with my folks or have an ID to be granted entry to my house at night. Nor have I ever been told that 40F isn't actually too cold to sleep outside, as is the case in many cities without cold weather laws.

And to be clear - for some youth, leaving home is life saving, preventing either further abuse or contemplation of suicide. But that lack of a supportive home space with people who love them (whether it starts at the point of leaving or long before) has long-lasting impact.

Fast forward to last night and the Grace in Action monthly immigration movie night. We watched Under the Same Moon (trailer), a movie that follows a mother and son who have been separated for four years, because the mom lives and works in LA and the son, Carlitos, lives in Mexico. They, too, are separated, albeit for different reasons than many LGBT youth are separated from their families. After the film, we had a small discussion of the situations presented. During the conversation, a woman I've spoken with a few times at other events spoke up: "Yo me identifico mucho con la mamá en la pelicula - tengo nueve años de no ver a mis tres hijos mayores." (I really identify with the mom in the movie - I haven't seen my three oldest children in nine years.) A ton of bricks doesn't begin to describe. And none of her kids is even my age - the oldest is just younger than Ella.

In talking with her and her husband afterward, I learned that they are from just a couple hours away from Suchitoto. We were talking, laughing, sharing memories and stories and she asked if, whenever I'm there next, I would visit her children. Another ton of bricks. I hope to be able to do this, but it made me once again SO aware of the privilege I have as a citizen of the US. I can come and go as I please, but she cannot nor can her husband. And so they are separated. And their older kids have three siblings here whom they have never met. Separation.

In the film, one of the older characters reminds Carlitos, in a moment of deep despair, that nobody chooses to live this way - everyone has a reason. Usually that reason is a child or a parent.

We have to start and keep having conversations about the situations that push people to make unbearable decisions and live in unbearable situations of separation. We have a role to play in remaking our immigration and housing systems. At the intersections of policy, faith, and community education, we need to plant ourselves and invite others into conversation about how deeply separation hurts individuals, families, and society.

La Misma Luna and the White House Conference did not, at the surface, seem to have a lot in common. Yet there was a common thread throughout the day of the damage done by rejection and family separation, and the important of building loving networks of support around those who, for whatever reason, have been separated from family. Let us continue to be about this as the seasons turn.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly

Minneapolis-area Lutherans on Friday went on record against changing the state Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman....

Actually, my understanding is that we went on record as having already been on record against changing the Constitution, but that's a small detail. (This resolution reaffirmed a 2004 resolution to the same effect, from last time these shenanigans were happening.)

Needless to say, I'm excited.

The last couple weeks have been mostly good, but have included a couple of rough patches - the loss of a high school friend to colon cancer (at age 25 - I still can't wrap my head around that one) and the volunteers in one of the other programs in town had to transfer all the way to Florida. Given their work environment, the transfer was probably best for their own emotional health, but it is going to be tough getting used to their absence.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On Being in Detroit

Krista Tippet's show, On Being, featured Grace Lee Boggs and Detroit this morning. Dr. Boggs is my neighbor - she lives and runs the Boggs Center just a short block from our house here on the East Side of the city.

You can see the episode entry on the show's blog and listen to the podcast if your interest is piqued. I think two of my coworkers collaborated on the pocket park pictured at the bottom of the page. (That is, they worked with five others on a pocket park and I think it's the one pictured. In my searching to confirm this, I also found this great article that mentions both Kate and Lindsey: http://michigancitizen.com/artists-take-local-food-message-to-the-streets-p10724-1.htm.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Looking out

Forget this business of Detroiters not watching out for each other.

My life was just saved from getting squashed by a bus by not one but to of my neighbors a block down. I was running and nearing the end of the block when two people - not together - both yelled for me not to cross the street. I figured it was because one of them had a dog that was clearly a bit interested in what I was doing. But as I got within 10 feet of the intersection, I saw that a bus was hurtling down the way. (A bus that I have waited an hour for to no avail, by the way.)

They had no idea that I was planning on stopping and turning around at that very point to end my run. They thought I was about to die and they both hollered for me to stop. I count that as two lives saved.

Let's multiply this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wherein Korla uses profanity

Fuck this noise: Tucson schools ban books by Chicano and Native American authors

Read all sorts of books, y'all. Read 'em! And raise hell when anyone tries to ban them.