Lightning bug or Firefly…

Ahhh…summertime as a kid.  No school, no homework, no worries.  Playing outside until the streetlights came on, swimming in the pool, or jumping through a sprinkler.  Those were the good ole days!  But nothing was as special as waiting until dusk and catching lightning bugs.  At least that’s what they were called in my neck of the woods.  And by that I mean Baltimore City (smile).  I know further down south they are known as fireflies.  I recently learned that these fun bugs are not native to all parts of the country.  I feel bad for those who have missed out.

Catching lightning bugs was one of the highlights of summer.  First you had to search for the perfect container.  Once you had that, you carefully punched holes in the top so that the lightning bugs could breathe in their new habitat.  Collecting sticks, grass, and various types of leaves made for the perfect little living space for your prized bugs. The next step was the fun part…catching them.  You had to keep your eyes peeled in every direction.  You would see one blink and then disappear into the dark sky.  You tried to follow with your eyes where they may light up again.  Sometimes we would run in circles after those things, but it was so much fun.  They were magical.  I mean…how and why does a bug’s butt light up?!  And since they only came out in the summer, they were special.

My last post was about the Pride parade and what a fun time that was for everyone.  I’m so thankful to have had that special time because things have been tough lately.  I have been bombarded with so many heart breaking stories, kids in crisis, families seeking help…it’s been a bit overwhelming for this mama’s heart.  I guess you could say that comes with the territory of being an ally, writing a blog, and especially helping to run a PFLAG chapter.  Our chapter is a place where the LGBTQ community and their families come to get support.  Just like those containers we prepared when we were little kids, we try to prepare our space to be a welcoming and loving environment.  We take great care to be present for those who attend because they are special and deserve to be treated as such.

Recently our space has been jeopardized.  We learned on Thursday that we can no longer meet in our space at the church where we’ve met the last two years.  They gave us six days notice before our next meeting.  Can you say panic?!  It seems that an AA group has approached them and they took priority over us.  We were offered a classroom, but that’s where we originally met and we have outgrown it.  They also offered a different night which is what we are going to have to do…even though many have adjusted their work hours to accommodate our meetings.  We really don’t have a choice.  The church where we meet is an affirming church.  And although they suggested we try the church down the street if we want to keep the same night…we aren’t welcome there.

I consider it a bit of false advertisement actually.  You see…if you check out church websites, many will say that “all are welcome”.  But for some, all doesn’t really mean ALL.  In some cases, they mean you are welcome if you deny or hide who you are, and in other cases it means you are welcome and will one day meet the real Jesus and be “healed.”  Since PFLAG is LGBTQ affirming, we are most often not included in the ALL. There aren’t a lot of meeting options in our area.  We were lucky to have an affirming church in the area where we wanted to hold our meetings.  I know they have to do what they have to do…I just wish they would have given us more time.  It does make me sad though that they are one of our only options.  There are some pastors that are affirming, but their congregations are not and it would cause problems for us to be there.  Of course, we don’t want to cause problems for a church.  If it takes meetings and debating, then maybe that isn’t the place for us.

I’m guessing there was a time when an AA group wouldn’t have been welcomed in a church.  Before there was much research into it being a disease, I’m sure people looked at it as a sin that people just needed to get under control.  Although some people have done some pretty drastic things due to their addiction, and some have fallen off the wagon and dragged themselves back onto it, they are welcome.  And I’m glad.  Alcoholism runs in my family so I am very familiar with the disease.  I’m glad that AA is there to help.

The same can’t be said of the LGBTQ community.  This is a community that is turned away.  Part of the problem is that they are reduced to a sexual act.  But even if we did that…if we boiled it down to that one thing…there are many heterosexual people sitting in churches that aren’t following what the church would consider a godly sexual life…yet they are welcome.

I looked up the mission statement for AA and here’s what I found…

AA Mission Statement:
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Here is the mission statement for PFLAG…

PFLAG Mission Statement:
By meeting people where they are and collaborating with others, PFLAG realizes its vision through:

  • Support for families, allies and people who are LGBTQ
  • Education for ourselves and others about the unique issues and challenges facing people who are LGBTQ
  • Advocacy in our communities to change attitudes and create policies and laws that achieve full equality for people who are LGBTQ

Would you attend this church if the following were their values?

We believe that lives are transformed by unconditional love. To help people achieve this, we recognize we must exercise compassion for ourselves and others willing to take the journey toward love and acceptance.

We believes in the responsibility of leading by example. To do this, we commit to listening, supporting and responding in building relationships with those we serve.

We believe that the things that make us diverse are what makes us powerful. To ensure that we are being  respectful of everyone we serve, we commit to listening, learning and engaging with diverse communities. We believe true inclusion means to meet others where they are, acknowledging and embracing their stories.

We believe that we are measured by our words and actions. We commit to empowering people in our communities to join together to transform the places where they live. 

We believe learning is the key to positive change. Therefore, we commit to providing and involving ourselves in ongoing learning opportunities to continually broaden our worldview, overcome misinformation and bias, in order to live our values.

If you ask me…sounds like a good church.  In reality, these are the values of PFLAG…yet we aren’t welcome.  (I took out the word PFLAG and words like inclusion – to see the actual list you can visit our website).

I am trying not to lose hope.  Like I mentioned, there have been so many stories of hurt…and honestly this just adds to it.  My mission is to keep educating and advocating, with all the others who have a passion for this community, with the hope that one day the LGBTQ community will be welcomed into every church.   I long for the day that the church takes the time and care to prepare the space.  The day that they extend the love and acceptance that this community so desperately wants and deserves.  I long for the day that they don’t have to hide or deny who they are, but instead can shine brightly for all to see.

Just like my favorite summer time bugs (smile).

This matters…love matters…love well.

Baltimore Pride…

For about the last three years, I’ve been wanting to attend a Pride parade.  It just never seemed to work out.  I would either totally not remember that there even was a Pride parade until it had already passed, or I would be on vacation, or have one of those nasty summer colds.  I just couldn’t seem to get there.  Until this year.  Since I help run a PFLAG group, it was on my radar screen and I was excited to finally be able to attend. Double bonus that this year it was on my birthday!  So yesterday I spent my birthday marching in my very first Pride parade (smile).

Many people ask me…why Pride?  Why do the gays have to have a special day?  The straight people don’t have that…there isn’t a straight pride parade.  My basic answer is you don’t understand it because you don’t live it.  You aren’t gay.  Every day is straight pride day.  You can walk through the streets and be yourself.  Every day.  You can hold your loved ones hand and not think a thing of it.  Every day.  You don’t have to fear for your safety because of who you are…every day.  The LGBTQ community in most areas do not have any of those luxuries.  Pride is a time for them to be together with like-minded people and be their authentic selves.  No masks.  No hiding.  No fear.  No judgement.  Until you live without that…you probably won’t understand why they value the Pride celebrations so much.

If you’ve been a reader for some time, I’ve mentioned before that when I was younger I used to march in parades (post 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8).  I know what it’s like to feel the energy of the crowd, and the excitement I feel when I hear the marching bands start to play. It’s fun.  So, I kind of knew what to expect.  Now I’m just going stop here for a moment to tell you how hot is was out there.  It was HOT!  Like fry an egg on the sidewalk hot.  I looked at the weather app on my phone for yesterday and at the time we were there for the parade it was 99 degrees.  That does not take into account the humidity and heat index. Yikes!  I took the biggest bottle of water I could find and let me tell you it was just about as big as me.  The down side to that was as it got towards the bottom of the bottle I seriously could have made hot tea with the water that was left…it got that heated.  Yuck!

Ok…back to the parade.  My PFLAG group lined up and waited for our turn to start down the parade route.  I could feel the excitement in the air, but more importantly I could feel the love and acceptance in the air.  As we rounded the corner, I was amazed at all the people who were there on the sides.  They had gates set up so they couldn’t go into the road and in some places the people were 4 and 5 rows deep.  Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve been in parades before, but I had never seen anything like this.  I read today that the Baltimore City Fire Department estimated that 10,000 people were in attendance.  I have to tell you…hearing the cheers as we went by, seeing the happy faces…I was overcome with emotion. I’m in tears just thinking about it now.  It’s something that I will never, ever forget.

We walked on and the cheering never stopped.  People were holding hands.  People were happy.  But it wasn’t without its protesters.  I saw four.  They were holding large signs with the usual things you see at things like this telling us to repent or the fires of hell were coming to get us.  I saw about four interesting outfits…hardly any clothing on, but other than that it was pretty tame. The rest of the people were dressed like me, or what you might see at the beach.  In fact, I’ve seen worse at the beach.  When we got to the end of the parade route, we were able to go over to the gated area to watch the rest of the parade go by.  One of the really encouraging things I saw were a group of churches go by.  There were several denominations: Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, and others that I can’t remember because there were so many passing by.  It did my heart good to see them there.

Since I’m not gay, why go to a Pride parade?  There are a several reasons.  The first being that our PFLAG group wanted to get the word out that we are here.  We are needed…and we want the community to know that we exist in our county.  The second being that anything that is helpful to my son I want to support.  Even though he didn’t attend (it was too hot for him – and he isn’t a fan of big crowds)…it’s a place where he can be himself if he did attend.  The third is that I just want to be where people need love and support.  I feel such a strong calling to that and honestly I am the happiest when I am doing it.  The event isn’t just for LGBTQ people, but also for the people who love and support them.  I can’t wait to go again next year!

When I’m with my PFLAG group, or with LGBTQ folks, I feel comfortable.  I’m not on guard.  I don’t have to worry about what other people think of me.  I don’t have to be prepared to “debate” someone for supporting my kid.  As parents, we don’t have it as bad as our kids do, but we do deal with being preached at, lost relationships, sometimes lost jobs, etc…just because we love and support our kids.  With all of the negativity in the world right now regarding the LGBTQ issues, it is nice to have a place to go where you see some positive.  Just this morning one of the moms in my private FB group posted this (I got her permission to share):

Hello mamas! I have been, like a lot of us lately, really struggling with all of the negative stuff on social media that just seems to be constantly circling about. I am still learning to just walk away, get off of FB, etc. because even at this stage of the journey, I tend to knee jerk react sometimes and that usually isn’t helpful at all. So today, I was looking forward to getting to church-many of you know I attend an open and affirming church here in Hickory, NC (for reals 😃)and I love it there! Safe place with lots of love! I pulled into the parking lot and dang if we didn’t have protesters today!! 😳They had huge signs and bull horns and the thing that sent me over the edge was that there were small children with them!!! 😡 WTH??? They were yelling that the all the people that died in Orlando were burning in hell right now and we were going to burn with them! They were calling for our pastor to come out and face them- they called him a liar and a coward. It was awful! They said that they were standing far away from us so that our perversion wouldn’t touch them. It was just unbelievably awful! So much for peace 😰

These are the types of things that we and our kids deal with on a daily basis.  It’s hard sometimes to not just crawl in a hole some where and never come out.  It gets to be exhausting.

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This is my extended family. Love them!

I told my son yesterday I wished there was a Pride parade every weekend (smile).  But while I wait for 2017 Pride, I will be searching for ways to show this community that I love them, that God loves them, and that they matter more than they can imagine.

Because love matters…