Hey folks, Katie here. If you’ve been reading YAR and are having any questions related to lgbtq issues and how we approach them here, you are in the right place. As I am currently working full-time for Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests (BMC) – I, on behalf of the founders of YAR, am working on a little primer. This is the beginning of a work in progress so if you have other questions I haven’t addressed – feel free to send them to me. I’ll start with the basics and maybe get to tougher stuff later. *Disclaimer: alot of this is very BMC-centric. If this bothers you, too bad, I work for em, that’s where I get my stuff.
I see different people using different language and acronyms when talking about sexual orientation and gender identity, what do these mean and are any more or less appropriate?
LGBT, GLBT, LGBTQ and variations – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer. These are appropriate. Some people prefer acronyms because they are short, some don’t because some groups can get left out and this can make it exlusionary. Queer is a word that has been used very negatively in the past but is being reclaimed by some in the lgbtq community. It can be a handy to use as an umbrella term that is more inclusive but some still associate it with the hate with which it was often used. I wrote this on queer a while back for work and it is connected to some other interesting writings and resources on “queer.”
Homosexual (noun) and related “The Homosexual Lifestyle” – inappropriate unless you want someone to think you are James Dobson. For more on this type of language – the homosexual lifestyle: a rhetoric of bigotry.
Speaking of James Dobson – This might come in useful the next time you hear or see anything by him or his friends or from any number of folks in both church and society. It has been attributed to Willie Hewes, I don’t know her but she knows her anti-gay rhetoric up and down, side to side, and diagonally. She also makes comics and writes a blog, you can check it out here.
I’m interested in doing some reading to educate myself, do you have any suggestions?
Well, I’m glad you (I) asked. This should get you started and I’ll be happy to add things if people suggest them or ask about a topic not covered. This is a short list for now.
Walter Wink edited a great book called Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches. Included are essays by James Forbes Jr, Peggy Campolo, William Sloan Coffin, and a bunch of other folks. Included is also Winks essay “Homosexuality and the Bible” which you can read here if you don’t want to read the book.
(shameless self-promotion alert!) You might check out some of the offerings on the Brethren Mennonite Council website. Specifically you could start with the Resource Packet (pdf), our bibliography for churches (doc), and our weblinks.
A Mennonite group called the Welcome Committee has put together 8 booklets covering different topics that relate to the Mennonite church and the lgbt community. They are available online or in print.
There is a ton of great stuff on the web – notable organizations with excellent websites include (acronym alert, it seems the queers like the acronyms about as much as the Mennonites): HRC, NGLTF, GLSEN, PFLAG, GenderPAC, ISNA, NYAC.
What Can I do to help?
This is a draft of a list I’m putting together for BMC, that’s why there’s a lot of BMC related things. Non-BMC-centric things are also there, just keep reading to the end.
Whether you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or a straight ally, family, or friend, there are many ways to support BMC and the cause of justice for the LGBTQ community. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Sign up on the BMC mailing list – We’ll send you a copy of Outspoken three times a year and our monthly email NewsNet. Occassionally if we have an event we want to tell you about, you’ll hear about that too.
- Learn more about BMC’s other programming and services and tell others – BMC’s programs include the Supportive Communities Network (SCN), Kaleidoscope for youth and young adults, the BMC List, Connecting Families, and BMC Local Groups. We host conferences and conventions, and offer speakers, workshops, and trainings. We have many helpful resources available in our office and on our website and we can help you find others if we don’t have it here. We also advocate for LGBT justice in the Mennonite Church USA and Canada and the Church of the Brethren through dialogue with with church and community organizing.
- Join the BMC List – This is a listserv for you to get in touch with other BMCers.
- Join the BMC Local Group in your area – or start one if there isn’t one already. You could plan an activiity to meet with other LGBT BMCers in your area.
- Donate to BMC – BMC is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), organization and your donations are tax-deductable. You can donate online or send a check to our office. If you live in Canada, you can send your tax-deductable donation to BMC Canada (sorry, BMC Canada cannot take online donations or credit card contributions, online donations and credit card contributions can be made directly to the BMC office but will not be tax-deducable for Canadians). You can also pledge to make monthly or quarterly donations through our Dance Partner program. BMC is supported through individual and congregational contributions and we need your help to keep quality programming and resources available.
- Help BMC raise funds – you could help BMC plan a fundraiser or talk to a few friends about giving to BMC.
- Volunteer with BMC – You don’t need to give money to support the work of BMC. Plan or host an event like a local group activity, retreat, fundraiser, or conference. Write an article for Outspoken. Help us prepare a mailing (works best if you live in Minneapolis/St. Paul), or even consider doing a year or two of voluntary service with BMC as the Kaleidoscope Coordinator.
- Educate Yourself and Others – Commit to educating yourself, your neighbor, your pastor, your work colleagues, your community, your Sunday School class, your congregation about lgbt justice.
- Ask your church to join SCN – Prepare an educational series to get the ball rolling.
- Organize a Solidarity Sunday at your congregation – invite someone from the lgbt community to preach.
- Advocate for LGBT Justice – In local, state, and national government as well as in your local church, district/conference, and denominational structures. You can write letters, speak out, vote, march, be a delegate, and dialogue with church and government leaders.
- Write a letter to the editor – Write a letter to the editor to your local newspaper or church publication to voice your support for LGBT rights.
- Come Out, Speak Out – by coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or allied you can increase visibility and challenge heterosexism and homophobia. You don’t have to be lgbt to come out. Speak out against violence and harrassment. Be publically in solidarity with the lgbtq community.
- Does your local high school or college have a Gay Straight Alliance? – Support it. If there isn’t one, help get one started.
- Organize a Safe Zone training – Safe Zones are an important way to help allies be better allies and publically show their support in your, church or community. BMC can help you lead a training or come to your area to lead a training for you.
- Meet with your congregation’s youth advisor – discuss ways that you can be available to help lgbt, questioning or allied youth. You might also speak with district/conference youth ministers and denominational youth and young adult offices.
- Be a mentor to an LGBTQ youth – Make certain that youth in your congregation know that you are a supportive person, and have resources available to help guide and educate them.
- Donate an lgbt positive book to your local church or public library – Or donate three books.
- March in or attend a local Pride Parade
- Think about your Heterosexual privilege – how often do you use language that let’s people know you are straight? Find ways to challenge heterosexual privilege. Practice using different langauge for yourself and your family (partner instead of husband/wife, vague pronouns). Think about the financial and social gains you get if you can legally marry, consider passing some of that on to groups working for equal rights. If your lgbt friends can’t get married in your state or church, consider standing in solidarity with your friends by not using that privilege.
- Commit an act of solidarity –
- Declare that you or your congregation will impose upon yourself/itself the same discipline that the district/conference/congregation metes out to any other individual or congregation
- Refuse to hold district/conference and/or denominational offices if qualified members from another congregation are not able to do so.
- Refuse licensing, ordination or church related positions until they are equally available to openly lesbian and gay people
- Refuse the privilege of marriage except as it is available to gay and lesbian couples. Have a commitment ceremony instead.
- If you are a pastor, refuse to condone state and church sanctioned discrimination by signing state issued marriage licenses. Instead, perform blessing ceremonies that honor couples who are committed to each other, without discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Evaluate your monetary commitments – consider re-appropriating part or all of your giving so that you are supporting Brethren and Mennonite organizations/programs that support, welcome and do not discriminate against lgbt people.
- Vote your values – at the polls and with your pocketbook
If you have any questions or ideas you think should be added to this list, send them to email@example.com.
I want to see discussions that have happened on this topic on YAR – check the lgbtq tag to read a collection (as long as the post was tagged as such, it will be in there).
More coming later – send ideas to Katie