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Posts Tagged ‘Unitarian Univeralist’

This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist service based on the lifting up of Pride. The service was about magic and being the hero of your own story.

The YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

Happy Pride

This is what I used to say every June to our legion of friends, old and new, when we were in every New York Pride Parade for years.

The New York Pride events were, of course, cancelled this year. Pride usually draws a large amount of people from all over the country.  It’s estimated that two million people have attended New York Pride each year in recent years.

My partner, Barbara, and I weren’t planning on going this year and we haven’t been to Pride for years. Although we would like to go again and see our friends in Brooklyn who we stay with. Even so, even with all the tragedy going on around us, I was momentarily taken aback a few months ago when I heard Pride was cancelled.

Pride is that much a part of me.

The LGBTQ community has earned Pride.  But I do not think that having pride should be limited to one group of people.  Everybody should be proud of themselves.  As the late, great, writer Toni Morrison said, “You are your own best thing.”

She was speaking, of course, about true pride, or self-love or empowerment – whatever you want to call it. This kind of feeling good about yourself, does not rest upon feeling negatively about another group.  That’s not pride. Unfortunately, we’ve been seeing far too much of it and it’s heartbreaking – to say the least.  One could argue that hatred of others begins with self-hate.

Pride was born in the protests of the Stonewall Inn, which became a week-long riot in 1969. The people with the least to lose – those who couldn’t pass in straight society, the butch lesbians and the drag queens – exploded one night during yet another police raid on a gay bar. Raids were customary then. Gay people were routinely carted off to jail, their names were published in the newspapers. They lost their jobs – and often their families.

Ten years later, there was another riot, after the assassination of Harvey Milk, a small business owner and politician in San Francisco. The man who assassinated him, a former firefighter, got off lightly on a charge of manslaughter and used what has since come to be called “the twinkie defense” – meaning that his legal team used the excuse that he ate too much junk food which led to his criminal behavior. After this sentencing, a peaceful candlelight vigil turned into a riot outside San Francisco’s city hall which involved setting buildings and police cars on fire.

 

lesbian statue of libertyA few years after Harvey Milk was assassinated, I attended the premier screening of the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk (the first movie) at the Roxy on Sansom Street. I was young then, in my early twenties, and recently out as a lesbian. I still remember sitting in the dark theater and listening to the crying of those around me – mostly gay men.

Both riots – and there were others too – were before my time, but they are part of my history.

My partner and myself have lived in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia for a long time. We’ve had our problems with homophobia – even here in liberal Mt. Airy – but for the most part we have been met with acceptance. And that’s the way it should be. Of course, we should have equality. All people should have equality. This acceptance, no doubt, is why I sometimes take LGBTQ rights for granted.

These days, I’m probably more excited about going to a plant-based diet (which I did last fall for health reasons).  When I found out that this diet has a favorable effect on the planet, I was even more jazzed.

I’ve long been in favor of cultivating the earth — not just because it is the right thing, but because it is interesting. I’m a second-generation organic gardener, and I like bees. And I like planting bee balm and lavender and other plants that bees like.

But what I’m really excited about in going to a plant-based diet is feeling like I have a new lease on life. And I’m excited to be part of a global community.

There was a time when I felt the same way about coming out as a lesbian. Coming out in the early 1980s, meant that I didn’t have to erase myself and it meant that I had a tribe.

Recently, when reading a quote by the important gay writer Steve Abbott, I became very excited. The quote is about intersectionality and was made far before that term was commonly used. Steve died in 1992 of complications due to AIDS when he was forty-eight.

In his ahead of his time essay “Will We Survive the Eighties,” Abbott writes:

“It is clear that what we are doing now … is killing us all. And as we project these attitudes onto other species and towards the Earth’s ecological system, we are jeopardizing our very planet. I would argue that we can no longer afford to see anything – not even ‘gay liberation’ or our survival — as a separate issue needing a separate cultural or a political or a spiritual agenda. This does not mean I intend to renounce my sexual orientation, far from it. Even in times of sadness or loneliness, it remains my greatest source of strength and joy.”

As I read Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend and published recently, I was reminded that we all have our stories and that we were all forged in fire.

In 1992, I was at a writing program in Boulder Colorado, when I was scheduled to have a one on one critique session with Steve Abbott.  He was at the program but had to leave early because he was sick with full blown AIDS. Nearly thirty years later, a review copy of his book showed up in my mailbox. I did not know it was being published and I had not requested it.

To me, this was one more experience that proves that the universe works in mysterious ways.

I became Unitarian Universalist later in life – after fifty – when I found a religion that agreed with me. In particular, the Seventh Principle rings true:  Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

We are all connected.

 

 

–Namaste–

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.
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Just the other night, I attended a concert of love songs in an art gallery in Old City Philadelphia. Many of the songs were composed by Michael Biello and sung and played (on the piano) by his partner Dan Martin.  Dan was joined by Robin Burdulis on percussion and Tony Pirollo on Cello.  It was a truly magical evening.

Robin is an old friend – and through her my partner, Barbara, and I, have become acquainted with Dan and Michael’s moving theatrical and musical work over the decades.

Robin and and Barbara -- Poopsie and Boom -- together again!Entire group -- Dan Martin and company

Dan Martin at pianoguest at concert -- fabulous outfitRobin's hand on drumOld friends at the gallery

Just last year, I joined a church for the first time in my life.  This prompted a few long term acquaintances to remark, “Janet? Janet joined a church?”  One was talking to my partner who later rolled her eyes at me and said  “I wonder why she said that?”  Guilty as charged.  I was one of the seven percent of Americans raised without religion. So why ruin a good thing? I wanted to learn about the nature of belief — plus it’s a great community — truly  diverse.  It’s a Unitarian church — specifically Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration in East Mt. Airy. I’ve met lots of people from various religious and a-religious backgrounds — agnostics, atheists, Buddhists, Christians,  Jews. One thing we all have in common is that we are all thinking and questioning people.  I’m even in the company of some long-time fellow travelers.

One of the activities that I’ve been involved with is the  Jazz  Vespers  series. This last month featured  “Pluto is a Planet,” a LGBT jazz group that played original  compositions and jazz standards by LGBT  greats, including Billy Strayhorn who composed the popular standard “Take the A Train.” The concert prompted me to look up Strayhorn. Here’s what I found on LGBT History dot com:

Strayhorn, 1915 – 1927, was best known for his collaborations with Duke Ellington. According to LGBT History Month dot com, Strayhorn was openly gay. There has been speculation that his sexual orientation prompted him to avoid the spotlight. He was active in the U.S. civil rights movement.

“Although Strayhorn and Ellington collaborated on numerous piece, Strayhorn remained fairly anonymous and was rarely credited or compensated for his work,” according to LGBTHistory.com.

Below are some photos that I took of Pluto is a Planet.

Pluto is a Planet

Pluto is a Planet

To learn more about the Jazz Vespers series at UUCR, click here 

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