on wednesday, my 5th graders “graduated” from elementary school.  in what was technically a promotion ceremony, my students and the general education fifth graders at my school, one of the five elementary schools closing in oakland this year, charmed the crowd with their sweet spirits, huge accomplishments, and tearjerking songs and speeches.  it was a tremendously touching ceremony and if there were any dry eyes after the kids sang “true colors,” the principal fixed that with her speech, reminding us how these children have raised us as much as we’ve raised them.

last saturday, i went to a different graduation.  on thursday, it suddenly dawned on me that if i hadn’t already missed it, i could probably go to the graduation of the high schoolers i’d worked with two years ago.  out of my caseload of 28, about 20 were 10th graders, which meant that this would be their graduation year.

when i graduated high school, i was very smug.  it wasn’t a big deal to me, just a rite of passage to get past to get onto my real life.  and it’s difficult to say this in a way that won’t come off as smug or condescending, but in the past few years, i’ve learned so much about how hard graduating high school can be.  reading disabilities, bureaucratic hoops, cops watching, friends and relatives getting shot, no money for food, low expectations, and huge household responsibilities were not anything that i had to deal with in high school.  there were suicides and attempted suicides and alcohol-related car accidents and a sense of depression and ennui, and getting through and past all that was a challenge in its own way and i think high school is a challenge for pretty much anyone.  but in the end, the assumption was “of course you graduate high school.  that is what you do.”  but when i went to the graduation last week, i was immediately struck by a sense of deep pride and joy.  “we survived and conquered.  we fucking did it.”  it was a holy space.

and what was so exciting was that sense of “we did it.”  not “i did it,” which is i think what i thought of my graduation, but instead, “we did this together.”  in one of the graduation speeches, the speaker talked about her classmates as her rivals who were also her backbone.  yes.

the camaraderie among the faculty at that high school was huge.  when i went back to teaching elementary school, i compared the relationships forged at the high school as being like those on a battlefield.  and despite race differences and gang rivalries and all of those things, there is a deep bond between the students at the high school as well.

it’s funny, right.  the way that god is found in those places that hurt so much.  the pain is inexcusable.  causing that pain is inexcusable.  causing that pain with our inequitable laws, prejudices, and greedy fears is absolutely inexcusable.  the world needs to be better than that.  and so it’s ironic that those deep pain moments are the places where i see god the most.

though it also makes sense.  these “comfortable” lives of ours with on-demand tv and microwave dinners, that are based on the sweat of workers we don’t even think about and that smooth over oppression and negative emotion, cannot be the kingdom of god (or the gateway to the kingdom of god if you believe that heaven comes later).  neither are the experiences that would make for that deep sense of celebration for even surviving high school.  that is not the kingdom of god either.  but being in that place of togetherness and joy, if we could just keep that instead of working for trinkets and pushing past each other for what we think is ours, then those inequities and fears could stop.

this post seems equal parts white guilt manifesto, hallmark card, and sermon.  i believe what i’m saying and i also think i cannot put it into words without simplifying people’s experiences and without simplifying god.  i was excited about posting this, but now my lack of appropriate words makes me wonder if it’s worth it, or if it will just go into the collection of words written by good-hearted white liberals that repeat each other and are based on unrealistic idealism.

so i’m going to change the subject to something related but different.  now i’m going to start writing about the morality of lgbtq rights.   because i rarely post and this is something else i’ve been wanting to post and i think i can actually make a good point at the end of all of this.  and at least i know if i idealize the lives of lgbtq people, i’m idealizing my own life.

i’ve been thinking about lgbtq rights as a moral issue in a totally new way recently.  i suddenly realized what a moral nonissue the right to love who you want to love is, and how the focus on that takes a lot of the heat off of everybody, queers, queer-hating folks, and queer allies, to actually fix real problems in the world.  i suddenly started thinking about all of the things lgbtq folks could be doing with their precious and dynamic time, energy, and hearts, if they weren’t stuck being so busy defending their rights to love who they want to love.  again, i am totally idealizing a whole lot of things, but just think what could be done if people weren’t fighting so hard over their ability to hate, or to not be hated.

bah.  it’s coming out all wrong still.  it seems so vitally important, but the words are not strong enough.

i am thinking a lot about that part in huckleberry finn where huck decides that if helping jim makes him a bad person, well then, he might as well just get used to being a bad person.  and we sadly chuckle because we the readers know that he is actually a good person, he just thinks he’s a bad person.  and in the same way, all this angst about the morality of queerness is just totally beside the point of what life and morality is really about.  not that we shouldn’t fight for queer rights.  that’s not what i mean at all.  but the whole hatred of queerness thing just suddenly seems like nothing more than a colossal waste of energy.  god does not want us using our time and energy on justifying our hatred or our self-hatred.  that cannot be what this world is about.  the question suddenly reframed itself from, “queerness: good or bad?” to “why would anyone spend any moment of their time trying to convince people to hate others, rather than just helping people who need help?  who came up with those priorities?”

i want to ‘lectrify my soul.

yesterday at meeting for worship there were a lot of tears. and when somebody spoke/sang about the belief that there will be laughter even after people go, my natural tendency toward making people laugh when times are sad, went into high gear.

i wanted to tell the “hilarious” story of my first quaker meeting. i was an american tourist in whitby, england, and i had a cold. i tried to get tissues before the meeting started but nowhere was open, and that hunt took so long that i got to the meetinghouse just as meeting was started so i couldn’t find the bathroom. so i dashed in and sat there, for my very first hour of silence. except thanks to me, it wasn’t silence. the silence was regularly punctuated by my sniffles, as i tried to sink into the worship in some way. as i remember, there were multiple doors into and out of the worship room, and so even if i had felt brave enough to get up to go to a restroom at such a mysterious and holy time, i didn’t know where any of the doors led. so i just sat there. and sniffled. and felt american.

at the end of the worship time, the elderly woman next to me, kindly turned and told me that she wanted to offer me a tissue, but they were all up her sleeve and she wasn’t sure if that would bother me or not, so she hadn’t offered me a tissue.

what i got from reliving that story in my mind yesterday, was actually less about the funniness of the story but of the tissues we all have up our sleeves that we are too self-conscious to share.

but i didn’t tell the story or the lesson i had learned from it. there’s this flowchart that’s somewhere in our meeting’s seeker’s packets that gets referred to sometimes, and it’s about how to test whether to share a message. the part that i remember the most is that you can ask yourself if the message is just for you or for the group.

here is my embarrassing and guilty quaker confession:

what keeps me from speaking at meeting for worship, more than anything, when i have these “enlightening” moments is that as i start asking myself if the message is for me or the group, another piece comes in, which is, “am i willing to live by this?” and sometimes i’m not sure. sometimes the idea of living by my own grand advice that seems like it’s from god to the group, with me sort of tangentially involved, is so terrifying or exhausting-seeming, that i keep it to myself.

also, yesterday, i finished reading a pendle hill pamphlet by ben pink dandelion, “confident quakerism.” when i went to return it to the library, the library committee member behind the desk asked what i’d thought. and it was hard to answer, because i’d started the pamphlet months ago, read half of it, and then read the other half today. as i recalled, the beginning had been somewhat irritating, but yesterday’s reading had been useful. as i recall, the beginning dealt with some theological mistakes the author had made, and something in how they were presented had irked me. but there was a sentence near the end about how conversations about our spiritual mistakes breaks open things between people. in my conversation, i hypothesised that maybe our mistakes our better talked about than written about (and now i am writing about that idea). maybe they crystallize a little out of context, when you see them in print.

but it was interesting to read that yesterday, because besides theological mistakes, another place where stuff breaks up in important ways, is when people talk about race and oppression. i’m looking at ph. d. programs right now and i just discovered this week that there are education programs that have whiteness studies as part of it, and that has gotten me really excited. so i got all excited about that as a theological exercise, too.

but of course i don’t want to mix up an academic field with worship.

but probably the core of my belief system is that god is there when you are open to the truth. and frequently that is messy and awkward.

(and at the same time something i am continually learning is the boundaries of one’s own messy-and-awkward and others’ messy-and-awkward. as a writer who has very little filter, i must be mindful that others have filters and boundaries, and they are there for a reason.)

after meeting for worship, my girlfriend and i trekked over to ocean beach to see gillian welch, old crow medicine show, and emmylou harris pay tribute to warren hellman, the man who had started the hardly strictly bluegrass festival, a free music festival in golden gate park. i can never be convinced to go to the festival anymore because it is too crowded and full of alcohol and pot, even if i think it’s a good idea. but i liked the slightly smaller (though still robust) crowd of this event, the considerably rarer instances of people lighting up anything near me (though i did have this funny interaction on the phone with my mom between sets. she said, “we’re lighting a fire in the pit out here,” JUST as pulled out a pipe and lit it right next to me, and so i said, “yeah, someone’s got a little one going over here, too.), the explicitly respectful vibe of the event, and the beautiful escape valve of the roaring ocean just behind me. i was actually able to enjoy the music.

life is sadder than sometimes i’d like to admit. and it’s hard. and growth is hard. but there is god in the music and the laughter and the time shared together and the solitude of the ocean and the mistakes we make and our ability to open up about those mistakes. and if there’s not, there’s something really close, pointing to what god really is.

you say “well hey, it’s about time” and i say “no, no it’s about love”

there’s a post i’ve been holding onto for months, maybe years. i’m actually sitting here trying to write it and have managed to get halfway through it twice before highlighting the whole thing and hitting delete. i think of it as the post that’s gotten in the way of writing here regularly anymore, but it just won’t come out either.

it’s about my confusion about accountability to myself, from others, and to my meeting. it’s about calling and that falling away or shifting and not knowing where it went and not knowing how to ask for support and feeling bitter that it wasn’t just offered and feeling guilty for wanting other people to follow all of my whims and fluctuations. it’s about my desire to be more aware of others’ whims and fluctuations. it’s about accidentally almost joining a cult. it’s about the death of a member of my clearness committee. it’s about diversity and social justice and the question of if quakerism really is for everyone. it’s about how still and all, the majority of my friends are white. it’s about struggling as a teacher. it’s about crying at the meeting retreat two years ago because i just desperately wanted to give all of my students the type of experience i was having right then. it’s about how i don’t understand the valuable experiences my students have. it’s about wanting to write more. it’s about wanting to be more of what i think a quaker should be. it’s about living far from my meeting. it’s about feeling far from my meeting. it’s about feeling close to my meeting. it’s about unexpected phone calls from members of my meeting when i am feeling low or am across the country. it’s about feeling distance and then suddenly feeling overly close. it’s about being a grown-up. it’s about trying to infuse my teaching with quakerism. it’s about leaving and coming back. it’s about bitterness and angst and self-recrimination. it’s about deciding. it’s about not deciding. it’s about confusion, sadness, and joy. it’s about days slipping by. it’s about living.

maybe now that that’s all out of the way, i can start focusing on god again.

in your head in your head they are fighting.

this

plus

this

equaled me saying this:

“i think the thing that is breaking my heart in this is so many of the people who are screaming vitriol also claim to be on the healer’s side… claim to be his spokespeople… and in so doing, drive so many people away. it reminds me of this time i saw graffiti that said “fags hate god,” in, i’m assuming, a response to all the “god hates fags” stuff… and my response was, “of course. that is the logical response. and it is very very sad.””

cat and her friend, sarah, and i have started praying for each other or holding each other in the light… or something vaguely worded but powerful… as stressed out, burning out, caring teachers. i’ve needed it immensely these past two weeks.

my class is very violent. not… physically, really. but in the way that this world is very violent, and i’ve got a lot of sensitive frustrated students who live in a town where violence is how you solve things. where you need to get sponsorship from coca-cola or chevron to get enough money to sponsor a project for your class. where i’ve lost the line between cultural loudness and the loudness to be heard when you go home alone or to a too crowded house and every single person you know needs way more than they get. i am disappointed in myself frequently because sometimes i shout back and what kind of quaker shouts back at children.

kid: “if you go to church, why do you yell at children?”
me: “why are you yelling that question at me?”
kid: “I’M NOT YE–…”

it feels bad. 17 angry students and 1 tired teacher feels bad.

the only promise i can make to you is that i will screw up.

if someone can be a mentor to you by just being in your life for a short moment and saying and doing a few things that effected you and your life a lot for the better, the title for this entry comes from a mentor of mine. her name is nanci lamusga and she did the anti-oppression training that a few of us on my americorps team in olympia organized. and for me, what i got most out of the training was her way of being– and that phrase at the top. which might not be the exact words, because memory is faulty.

when i was at new college, the topic of race came up as a big campuswide issue. it was in either my first or second year, and honestly, i think my response was to drink some alcohol, dance, and continue to live like it had absolutely nothing to do with me.

there was an anti-oppression workshop in my 3rd year that i went to, and that was when it actually started clicking that, um, i had a race, that i was part of these systems, and that my lack of accountability was harmful.

in my last two years of college, i started really getting into zines. somehow i had it in my head that i shouldn’t get zines from people of color who were writing about race because i would be spying on something personal, but i did start reading zines by queer people of color because of the queerness. and those personal stories really helped me understand more that this was all very important. shortly after college, i went to the zine symposium in portland and there was a workshop about zines and race. i finally let myself really listen (with my ears and not just reading about it) to people of color talk about racism and its effects, even in this bastion of radical anarchy.

that was when it became vitally important to me. except, when i say that, my taurean deliberation and codependent shyness kept me from doing a whole lot more than internal theorizing. especially, because i was at that moment dealing with my father’s death and my coming out as trans– and because i was white in seattle and it wasn’t in my face every day.

when i did my americorps term in olympia, i was excited because we were going to do an anti-oppression training. i wanted to learn more about oppression, race, & my place in oppressive structures, and i wanted my teammates to learn about trans and queer issues. except then our team leader changed jobs and we had a new team leader and she didn’t have anti-oppression explicitly on her agenda. we were going to have to make it happen ourselves. so a team of us formed and we invited nanci and we all learned a whole lot.

then i moved to san francisco, and the whole racial landscape was totally different. the whole queer landscape, the whole religious landscape. everything was just so different. i started going to quaker meeting, and i did poke at people about why there were so few people of color in meeting and things like that, but i was very aware that i had just moved here, and that in many ways i had no idea what i was talking about.

i can look at my life in two ways. i can say that i didn’t move fast enough. this is urgent. i can also say that i was preparing. this can’t be rushed. both are right. i think i have been able to talk and educate and learn before i actually started doing it, and i think that i have moved on the right path for me.

because suddenly i am in an incredible place. big things about race have been happening with people in my life, and i think i have learned how to hold the space for listening.

it has nothing to do with me. which i do have to keep reminding myself. “aren’t i a good ally?” “haven’t i done so much?” “other white people aren’t doing this.” these thoughts go through my head, but they are toxic. it is not me. it is all of the voices i have let into my heart, it is the work and writing and speaking done by so many amazing people, it is god opening up the space. when i congratulate myself and then fall down, i am bitter and ashamed. when i remind myself that i am just part of the exciting dynamic stream of life and change, and i fall down, i get up, i learn, i try to do better.

that’s only half of the way that phrase has been resonant for me today. the other half is about how i live in san francisco, but not everybody does. san francisco has a ton of flaws, but at least i can be weird here. at least i can be queer, peculiar, and weird, and i’m just one of the many queer, peculiar, weird people around.

i am currently going to school to be a special ed teacher, and i think i might actually be the only queer person in my program. that hasn’t happened to me in a really long time. not only that, but the people teaching us in our two week intensive right now aren’t from san francisco. they’re from neighboring areas where not everyone is weird.

i did a mock interview with them yesterday and was suddenly reminded that people care about things like normalcy and being referred to by their titles and boys not having any metal in their ears. and some of those people actually live in san francisco even though that’s easy to forget, but i’m also not just interviewing for jobs in san francisco.

i show my seams. i tell people about my learning process including the mistakes i’ve made. i forget to use people’s titles because i don’t think they matter. i try to be funny. i try to connect with every person i meet on a real, deep level.

and maybe in professional land, that’s a little tacky. maybe there will be people that won’t like it. that’s a little terrifying, but i just don’t know how i can work for someone who doesn’t hear the earnestness, honesty, and commitment to good work in that very phrase, “the only promise i can make to you is that i will screw up.” i don’t actually say that at interviews. but i let people know that i am a human being.

these things are related. i will make mistakes. i will keep trying. i will let you make mistakes. i will try and hear everyone’s voice. i will still like you even if you screw up.

these are my strengths. i feel grateful for all of them.

this past saturday was the teachers for social justice conference.

rewind a little for me to tell you that, um, i quit my job. you know, the one i’d been glowing about not too long ago. i still love the agency, but in terms of skills and interests, the position wound up not being a good match for me. i spent some time feeling elated and free after quitting and then there was a deep crash in motivation and self-confidence. i found a job rather quickly, and i’ll probably be starting that on friday, but the climb out of mild depression is not as swift as i would like. i’m fine, but it’s weird going from Having a Purpose to Um… What Should I Be Doing With Myself?

but the teachers for social justice conference was a help in that.

funnily enough, both of the workshops that i went to had something to do with transformation in the title. it absolutely wasn’t intentional, but you know, that’s always been one of my interests. the first was on transformative life skills. the job i’m starting soon is as a paraprofessional (which means a classroom assistant, usually with special education students), and the workshop seemed like it might give me some good tools to use with students one on one, especially those with attention issues and stuff. it was all about breathing and centering and stuff like that, so it kind of was about being a quaker. it was interesting how the workshop was both about helping kids find ways to calm down and about helping us educators be calm. (they did a great impression of educators frantically trying to get kids to calm down. “settle down! SETTLE DOWN!!!”)

the other workshop was “Message to Transformative Teachers: The Process and Potential of a Culturally Empowering Pedagogy.” i picked it out of a ton of inspiring looking workshops, and honestly, the number of wonderful buzzwords in a lot of the descriptions became sort of a blur to me, and i couldn’t tell if i was going to this workshop because i understood what it was about or because i didn’t. but it was pretty amazing. i took tons of notes and part of me is tempted to put them all up here. but the gist of the whole thing was how we need to really understand where youth are coming from and not blame them for being who they are. it was particularly for working with high school aged youth of color. i don’t work with high school aged youth, but the workshop still felt applicable. the presenter, patrick camangian, was hugely inspiring and great to listen to.

the thing that’s stuck with me most is just the offhand comment that he made about how “thuglife” is actually an acronym. i had no idea. i guess it comes from tupac, and it stands for “the hate you give little infants fucks everybody.” it’s pretty amazing. it’s been going over and over in my head a lot since then, informing my thoughts on the systems and institutions in this society.

yesterday, i had to get a tb test, and i went to the public health clinic that i usually go to. i tend to go to the transgender night, but this is the second time i’ve had to do a walk-in during regular hours. i arrived 1 hour after they opened, the number that was showing on the board was 66, i pulled number 79. i sat for 2 hours and watched as the number crawled up to 69.

this place is ugly, doesn’t seem totally clean, and the bathrooms smell really bad. the people who work there are tired and grouchy. the people who go to the clinic are primarily people of color, and since it’s a public health clinic, they are all pretty darn poor.

after two hours i stepped outside and called around to other clinics that had been referred to me for this process. i finally became convinced that the “adult and travel immunization clinic” would actually work for my work tb test, and wow, it was actually the same building. the front door this time instead of the sketchy back alley entrance. it’s clean, there’s carpet, there’s music playing, the receptionist smiled at me, and i got seen in half an hour. the people around me were mostly white, and seemed mostly middle class.

in the first clinic, a man came in and not finding a place to sit, sat on the trash can.

today i was talking to a friend and she said, “do you think infants get hated often?” and i said, “maybe not directly, but institutions are constantly telling them and their families that they are garbage.”

after i got my tb test yesterday, i took the bus home. a man and woman got on the bus carrying full trashbags. i think they were full of cans. i was reading, but soon i noticed that an african-american woman was yelling at them. something about how they had insulted the way that she smelled, but it’s them that smelled. the woman with the bag and the african-american woman threatened each other. the woman with the bags got up and started yelling, “i’m not afraid. i’m not afraid.” she seemed chicana or native american. i got off a stop early because it was crowded and i was freaked out. as i was walking home, i saw basically everybody get off at the next stop, and the man punching the window of the back door of the bus, yelling “you better get off that bus right now” the glass was broken, and spit came flying out.

the hate you give little infants fucks everybody.

me saying that has elements of appropriation, and it’s definitely been used with more violent rage than i’m comfortable with, but it’s true and it’s big.

what am i going to do about it, i’m not sure yet. i really want to, though.

america, why are your libraries full of tears?

it’s international blog against racism week! every year when this comes along, i find myself trapped in some sort of weird writer’s block. i want to say Something, and i usually have Lots to say on the topic, but now, this week, i can’t even begin.

i’m reading a collection of the writings of bayard rustin right now and i just read a peace about the journey of reconciliation. in 1946, the supreme court passed the morgan decision, which said that interstate travel wasn’t subject to jim crow laws. to test this, rustin and 15 others, black and white, took greyhound and trailways buses through the south, with the black folks sitting in the front and the white folks sitting in the back. they went on different trips, not all on the same bus at once, but there were always people of color and white folks participating in the experiment. the reactions were mixed, but rustin concludes that the predominant feeling was that of “confusion.” there was actually little violence and what there was was directed at the white folks participating. there was support and there was rage, but the men (they were all men) on these trips held steady.

what am i as a white ally doing that’s anything like this? what is the religious society of friends doing that’s anything like this? i’m romanticizing the past surely, but oh golly, we’ve gotten so comfortable. challenging things breaks us out of those comfort zones and it’s so hard to be bothered when we’ve got “martha stewart shams and sheets and sugar free powdered iced tea, vanilla coke, lemon pepsi, friends episodes on dvd” as kimya dawson sings about. we are trapped in some sort of ridiculous pleasuredome where all of these things keep consoling us. it’s not just quakers and maybe quakers are sort of better at breaking out of that consumerism thing than some other people, but we’re still stuck somewhere.

is that racism? “your problems can wait, my problems can wait, let’s watch some tv…” it’s despair. and laziness. and cowardice too, in this land of the brave. “i will never fix things so i will console myself with stuff… and i won’t talk to you because you are a stranger… and so i will never hear you and i will never realize i need to change and i will continue to be sad and yet content in my world of privilege…” is that racism? i think it’s all over america. i do it.

“America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic? ”
~from “America” by Allen Ginsberg

i am currently looking for employment that will start in two weeks, working 46 hours a week, and being around internetty computers much less than usual– so when i’m around computers, they are for craigslist-searching primarily. i of course have much to say, but i’ve been meaning to share these queries with you all for awhile…

Queries – Race and Class – Young Adult Friends Discussion – 6/18/08

•If you feel comfortable and as a way for us to know each other a bit better,
please address race and class issues in you background?

•What is most joyful for you in your discernment on race and class.

•What is most challenging or more aptly might cause you angst, guilt,
avoidance, or other deep emotions?

•Race and class often avoided in the “mainstream culture” but ever present
among us. Please share a situation where you avoided one or both of these
issues and what affect it had on you?

•As a seeker and a Friend, what is your hope for our community as we venture
forth and walk with the Light in seasoning these issues?

they are from a worship sharing for the young adult group at sf meeting that was led by our building manager and generally great guy, steve. there were four of us there, but the sharing that happened was very deep.

sometimes i wonder if my leading is just to engage in scary conversations. they’re hard when you work 46 hours a week. not that you become less brave, but just your mental capacity to translate things from your heart to your brain and out your mouth becomes less. but it’s possible. i should not make excuses. they just have not been happening too much. i’m not too stressed yet. lulls happen. but as i was part of this conversation, i wondered what it would be like in a group where we were not all already friends and we were not all white. the sharing was beautiful to me, but how would it sound to people who have heard all the excuses, self-congratulations, and ignorance of white folks before. if i facilitated something like this and real, reasonable or unreasonable rage came up, how would i handle it? i hope i would be gracious and not smug, not condescending, and able to be the real love that i want to be.

… today, during meeting, i stood up and said, “i love you and i will be transformed.” it was going to be longer i thought, but it wasn’t. i stood for what felt like a very long time before and after.

everyone has one.

“’My pain is ugly, Angel Juan. I feel like I have so much ugly pain,’ says Witch Baby in a dream.

‘Everyone does,’ Angel Juan says. ‘My mother says that pain is hidden in everyone you see. She says try to imagine it like big bunches of flowers that everyone is carrying around with them. Think of your pain like a bunch of red roses, a beautiful thorn necklace. Everyone has one.’”

Witch Baby, Francesca Lia Block

i just reread my favorite book. dangerous angels by francesca lia block contains the first five “weetzie bat books,” weetzie bat, witch baby, cherokee bat and the goat guys, missing angel juan, and baby be-bop. it’s so good. so so so good.

and so so so problematic. it romanticizes everything, and since it’s written by a white person, the people of color can become caricatures and stereotypes, even when she’s trying to write about them with the utmost love. parts of it hurt me in a big way…

but it wouldn’t have the power to hurt me like it does if it wasn’t so fantastic and wise in so many other ways. it deals with queerness and love and pain and angst in this way that has healed me so many times. that quote at the top of this entry has effected me in so many ways since i first read it. it helped me stop hurting myself and now it reminds me of how to connect to people, how to be open, how to listen and not be afraid, how to love.

i want to give this book as a gift to everyone i love, and i also want to hide it. reading it feels like praying, and like a car wreck. i don’t know what to do with all that. for me it’s only 2% car wreck and 98% praying, but i’m in the dominant culture. how would my pain necklace stab me if other pains were reflected in this book over and over again?

Published in: on 1 June, 2008 at 9:00 pm  Comments (6)  

on wednesday, we had a weighty friend come and speak with the young adults. he came to talk about his spiritual journey, especially in relationship to conservative friends. he talked about the history of christianity, the way and the word and what those things mean, and his belief that the world needs to embrace it now. he was honest– about himself, and about things he doesn’t understand (what atonement really means, why christianity has gotten co-opted and can be used for ugly things), and about the trickiness of the idea of jesus being the way (he believes this is true but that other faiths are going toward the same thing as well, in just as valid and important ways. and that people use the idea of jesus as the way to divide)– and i always am struck by that. i tend to trust and believe most people, but i’m still amazed when i KNOW i can trust and believe them– and that happens a lot with quakers. (and in terms of honesty, staring back at these words, i think i’ve put a little of myself in them. that way that you can hear someone and they answer a question that you have, and suddenly your question plus what they actually said becomes what you remember that they said… even though your question was never put into words.)

i go back in forth about the whole christianity thing. it’s been so poisonous in so many ways, and part of me wonders if it should just be scrapped. it’s maybe just too loaded at this point. BUT it DOES have such potential and it seems like it can be transformative and amazing, and so maybe it’s important to snatch it back from people who abuse it.

during the last bit of the conversation and the worship that followed, i realized that i felt the way that i did a few years ago, when i was at the tranny roadshow. kelly & jamez, these kids who i’d met at the portland zine symposium while we were sharing a table (my partner and i had one half for our zine distro and button press, & they had their own zine distro and were also there on behalf of the denver zine library as well), put together this amazing travelling performance art extravaganza, and it came to olympia.

at some point in the evening, shawna virago played us some amazing rock music. and between a couple of the songs, she told us that we were making history. and it really felt true at the time. i felt like i was on the pulse of something very true and urgent. & that’s how it felt being part of a conversation about christianity not being poisonous.

the next morning, i got on the bus that comes right outside my house. it was pretty full, and in the middle was a man yelling. he was yelling to us “o childrens of israel” to “shun the buddha, shun the kuram” (i am obviously a better person than him because i know children doesn’t need an s at the end, and my anglicized version of the kuran has the standard “n” at the end. this knowledge makes me smarter and thus kinder. which is why i’m pointing out his mistake. to show that i am better than him.). he told us that he loves us. he told us that god would transform us. he told us that we needed to listen now, that marriage is between a man and a woman, that we are all terrible, that god would send the tsunami if we didn’t repent, and then it would be our fault “like in indonesia.”

this is the third time that i’ve heard someone yelling on the bus about how god will send a tsunami to san francisco because of all the gays (one person compared us to “solomon & galore” and i thought “what a great gay club name” and i still think so, and i can’t tell if that thought is cruel and condescending, or just my standard love of the way that language moves and changes and grows and expands and lives). they’ve all been different people. they’ve all been people of color. they all seem pretty crazy to me. they all seem hurt and scared. i want to have the words and strength to tell and show them that this fear is not it. this fear and anger is the opposite of it. this fear and anger is pushing people away from that transforming power– it’s telling people that god is not for them and it’s telling people who love god that they are not good enough for god, which is not true. god accepts and loves us for who we are, every bit of it, and when we learn that, then we can start growing and getting better. we just get smaller when our god is not big enough to hold everyone. and if god can be made that small, is god worth saving?

the saddest part to me was not his rant. it wasn’t my inability to counter his rant to him. he could be crazy about that or other things, and that’s definitely sad. but the saddest part to me was that after he got off the bus people applauded– mostly out of relief that it was quiet again– and then one woman who didn’t seem crazy said, “yeah, but there was nothing wrong with what he said. everything he said was true.” and a lot of people agreed.

i’ve started an essay a few times about this san francisco conundrum. this tsunami thing. this white queer privileged people vs poor people of color who are also people of faith thing. it’s a scary multi-layered divide. where does the healing start?