Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Courageous survivors

My friend Jordan always tells me about the great stuff going on locally for students at Metro State. Today she told me I needed to come check out a one-woman show by Ingrid Rivera, called "Lágrimas de Cocodrilo" or "Crocodile Tears."
How does a single mother survive the lingering nightmare of childhood sexual abuse and find inner peace? Lágrimas de Cocodrilo is spoken-word activist Ingrid Rivera's tale of survival delivered in raw, vivid poetic monologues.

Journey into one woman's struggle with female-on-female childhood sexual abuse, lesbianism and raising a female child in the midst of recovery.

What a privilege to see this raw, emotional, moving and healing show.

It's hard enough for female survivors to talk about their abuse experiences, but when it's female-on-female there's a whole additional layer of stigma. Add to that the stigma of talking about this kind of abuse when you're a same-gender-loving female, and you've got one hell of a brave woman.

I got to talk briefly with Ingrid after the show, where I asked her if her sexual abuse history was ever used against her while she was also coming to terms with her sexuality. She said she'd been very lucky that hadn't been the case, but admitted that unfortunately it is often the case for many people who have experienced abuse by someone of the same gender.

She said, "You know, when a straight woman is in therapy because of being abused by a man, they don't question if she's straight because of the abuse, do they?" and of course, the answer is no. I have several male friends who have been abused by men and are straight. Most of the women I know who have been abused in childhood are straight. It infuriates me sometimes that straight people don't have to work through their abuse issues while also having to answer questions about their orientation and if the abuse "caused it."

Of course, in the convoluted-thinking ex-gay circles, if women are abused by men, then it's natural that they become lesbian (because the woman don't want to recreate the abuse situation and want to flee men), but if men in the same ex-gay group are abused by men, then that explains why they ended up gay (because naturally they'd be attracted to, and seek to recreate that abuse situation). Huh? Does anyone else see the craziness in that?

Someone else asked Ingrid if she felt supported by the Queer community, and she expressed that she hadn't gotten the support she'd wished for. These are some hard topics for the gay community. Both the female-on-female abuse (which seems too much like the perpetrator thing we get accused of), and the trouble parenting a daughter while in recovery for abuse (which manifests often in trying to overprotect the child from abuse, or giving unhealthy messages about the dangers inherent in sex and sexuality, or in a lack of ability by the mother to deal with her daughter's sexuality; not in abuse of the child) are tough topics to deal with, sure. It's hard being part of a group that people think are dangerous to kids. So we want to bend over backwards to not have any association with anything like that. And we're a group of people that everyone thinks must have been sexually abused if we're gay. I get it, but I don't have to like it.

I just feel like we can do better than this. As a community, we need to start addressing the tough stuff, and stop being afraid of what "they" say or think. Yeah, there's going to be people who will always say that anyone who is gay was sexually abused. There will always be those who think sexual abuse of children has to do with sexuality/sexual orientation instead of power. There will always be those who will discount my story because of the sexual abuse piece of it. There will always be someone ready and willing to use our stories against us.

In addition to that, those of us who did experience childhood abuse and also had the misfortune of going through ex-gay ministries may always struggle with the association of our abuse with our orientation (read Peterson's great post on "How Sexual Abuse Made Me Ex-Gay" for a good exploration about why those of us who've survived abuse seem to gravitate towards ex-gay programs).

It's tough stuff. But it's no excuse for burying our heads in the sand and not supporting our brothers and sisters who are courageous enough to talk about this stuff. I hope that Ingrid Rivera continues to tell her story and bring healing to herself and many others in the process. I hope that we as a community can start embracing each other just a little more. All we can do is keep telling our truths, and bringing our stories into the light.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Truth will win out

Love Won Out went to St. Louis today, and Gay Culture & Spirituality writer Colleen Keating was at the protest/vigil outside.

She writes, in part,
The only chants our contingency were shouting included "Jesus Loves You" and "Jesus Loves Gays." Despite what Alan Chambers said about our vigil, I thought that we succeeded in being quite positive:

"Anonymous defamation from any party is offensive, but the public protest planned by the gay community is particularly disturbing," he said. "Contempt for those of us who have chosen to leave homosexuality behind is not an action consistent with the call for tolerance and diversity."

What Chambers doesn't seem to understand is that none of us have "contempt" for the attendees (at least no one I spoke with). We felt badly for the young kids in the backseats of SUVs, looking down guiltily as they saw us--were their parents taking them to the event in the hopes of a "cure"? I know I felt badly for the parents hoping for a cure, and blaming themselves.
You can check out the rest of what Colleen wrote here.

I agree with her response to Alan Chambers. If I was there and protesting the event, I would not be protesting the right of Love Won Out to assemble, nor would I be protesting the right of ex-gays to exist or meet. What I protest is the idea that all gays can and should change because there are a few people out there saying they have (and their claims of change usually don't end up including their orientation, just behavior).

The "anonymous defamation" Alan was referring to in his quote was the
vandalism of one of their billboards ("I questioned homosexuality"). This was also discussed by Colleen over at Gay Spirituality & Culture. Her thoughts (which strongly echo mine) include
This enrages me. If there were a Pride billboard up, or a PFLAG, or an HRC, etc., which were treated in this manner, our community would rightly be outraged. Whoever did this reflects poorly upon the intentions of those of us who are trying to fight misinformation with truth.
So I agree with Alan Chambers that the anonymous defamation of their billboards is offensive, but I disagree with him that a protest or vigil is disturbing. When you consider the lies that are masquarading as science, and the political activities of Exodus, our community should question and hold up the truth in response to Love Won Out, and show support for those who may question the "truths" presented about sexuality at some later date. I have to admit that I do struggle with feelings of "contempt" for Alan Chambers and a few others in leadership positions at Exodus and Focus on the Family (and definitely for Paul Cameron and his ilk), but it's rare that I feel that for the people who actually attend these events (like Colleen rightly points out, many are strugglers or parents of gays and lesbians who are just looking for hope and answers). After all, only a few years ago, I was one of them too.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Peterson goes hetero?

Well, no, not really. But he did go to the Mr. Hetero Contest this last weekend.

See Mr. Hetero Part One (where he talks about the fear behind the frivolity) and Mr. Hetero Part Two (where he explains how dangerous this event really is).

The nephew photos

What you've all been anxiously waiting for. OK, maybe not. But humor me, will ya? These kids are two of the best things in my life!

Look Ma! Auntie brought us puppets that quack and bark!

This is especially fun when E has toys in his hands and he bangs on my head like a drum.

J. gets an early lesson in the joys of texting.

J. is not feeling so hot but at least he gets some cuddles.

Aunt Christine (aka cwistine) ran to the store for some popsicles and copious amounts of child-drugs and saved the night.

I'm gonna be walking in no time--watch out!

That's all folks. Thanks for indulging this very proud aunt.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Nearer my God to Thee

I'm checking in from God's country (aka Texas) today. I am here visiting my sister and brother-in-law, as well as my two adorable nephews (they are almost 3 and almost 1).

The nearly-three-year-old has been cracking me up left and right with stuff he says. Yes, I'm going to bore you with stories. Come back next week for my slide show followed by a look through all my photo albums.

J. saw the earrings in my ears and asked if I had holes in my ears. I said that I had 5 holes. He sighed quite dramatically and said, "Oh, man!" and shook his head. "I'm sorry," he gravely said, as he patted my cheek.

When eating breakfast this morning he had decided he was no longer interested in his pancakes and was having a monologue with himself, talking about how he didn't want to eat it, wasn't going to eat it, pushing them away, etc. Then he stopped, sighed, and said, "Give it up, man!" and dug in. Ha.

Tonight I was feeding him some ham pieces and he ate one that still had some of the (what do you call it - rind? skin?) on it. He spit it out of his mouth and with big, alarmed eyes said, "Auntie Christine! That one still had a stem on it!"

And then later tonight he was serenading me with the song "If you're happy and you know it..." but he sang, "If you're happy in your nose, clap your hands!" After dancing and singing around the living room for a bit, he then ran to the couch and cried out, "Ouch! I have a cricket in my foot! Rub it!"

My littlest baby nephew isn't talking yet but I'm having a great time seeing him too. He especially loves riding up on top of my shoulders and getting snot on me. Yum.

So I'm having a fabulous time. They exhaust me but I love it. Last night we got a sitter (aren't sitters the greatest thing since sliced bread?) and my sis and bro-in-law took me to a down-home Texas "restaurant" in a lean-to shack with sawdust on the floor. The menus were hand-written (mine said "all oders come with 3 sides"), Willie Nelson was playing in the background, and the steaks were as big as...well...Texas. This morning my sister and I had girl-time and went shopping. This evening I am watching the boys while their parents get out for a date.

Photos and slide show at my place soon!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

This is love?

Truth? Love? Are these casualties in the culture wars?

Alan's done it again. Yup, I'm talking about Alan Chambers, the head of Exodus, the ministry that says "Change is Possible" and professes to love gays and lesbians. Alan recently spoke at a Conservative Political Action Conference, and this is what he had to say (according to Salon.com):
A 1:30 p.m. session on "Marriage in the States," which was supposed to include Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, featured instead a self-described former homosexual named Alan Chambers. He said sodomy was like fast food: "It will kill you." He was an expert because he had lived through the torment of gay lust, enduring "a never ending cycle of cravings and nourishment ... an endless treadmill of faceless encounters, broken hearts and unmet dreams." His research on the gay lifestyle had also taught him that gay people do not really want gay marriage (it was the liberal media) and that "lifelong homosexual relationships are not possible."

If this is love, I'd hate to see what happens if things turn sour.

There are two great letters that have been posted at exgaywatch confronting Alan about what he's said about lifelong homosexual relationships not being possible. I hope there will be more.

If you are in contact with any ex-gay organizations or those who minister to ex-gays, please consider writing them and asking their opinion on these types of lies. As I wrote in one e-mail I sent, 'It hurts me terribly to read things like this. I honestly don't know how to feel or think about this, nor how to feel about [your ministry] being tied to such an organization. These kinds of lies from Alan need to stop. If Exodus' position is right, why does it need to be supported by lies? Why must they continue to wage a war against the very people they say they are trying to "help and support?"'

(Curtsey to exgaywatch.com)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Happy buddha

I went to see Dr. Cheng today (a fantastic Chinese doctor, acupuncturist and herbalist), with complaints of neck and shoulder pain.

He told me this particular pattern was called "Happy Buddha". And wouldn't you know it--when I left the office, this is what I looked like:

My shoulders still seem a bit hunched up around my ears, but dang if I'm not a lot happier! (Hey, stop rubbing my stomach already.)

Sunday, February 05, 2006