Friday, October 20, 2006

UC Davis with Laura...and Laura

So, I caught some sort of bodyache cold flu thing from Buffalo's flights - I forgot the Airborne - but we headed up to UC Davis in California by car and got there just in time before the Q&A. I was really impressed by a table set up and presence of a Christian group who is all inclusive...and they mean it. I'm told there's a bazillion student Christian groups on Davis' campus and they run the gamut of perspectives. There's ONE that has connected the dots of being open and affirming. They have dinner nights, retreats and different services and socials. They're gathering steam as more GLBT folks figure out they don't have to chose between being gay and religious as they find places they can go to in their local area and be themselves.

Laura Engelken who is a seminary student and attended the Davis screening with us fielded questions and had one student come up to her one on one. Her name was Laura as well and said how grateful she was Laura was in the movie because she resonated with Laura's experience and has similar thoughts. She's currently struggling and was thrilled to see our title say "and" and not "or". She attended by herself, was quiet during the Q&A, but when she shared herself with Laura and Laura later shared her conversation with us, we felt strongly that the screening that night was for Laura, the student attending the screening. We were thrilled at the hopes that she won't have the hard time Laura Engelken and I did. That she can have unity inside herself by saving herself from the drama and disconnect with God.

We also met a unitarian minister who shared with us that his parents have a hard time accepting him still. Here's a grown, intelligent, sensitive, honest, loving and caring man who's devoting himself to ministering to others and his parents aren't able to still recognize who he is...they only see who he isn't, and that's not knowing your own kid. Ouch. We loved meeting him and hearing more personal stories. One of my favorite reasons for being out on tour with the movie is hearing people's stories. I like to hear what they've been through, where they are now and where they want to be. I like to know what's really going on with people since I know from a lot of experience that mainstream media do not reflect what Americans really think, feel and believe.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

In Buffalo, NY, there is Canisius College

We've been having the most odd luck. Our screenings seem to land right around really odd acts of nature and humanity and when we arrive, the campuses are a little off axis. This time, we're in Buffalo at Canisius College which is named after St. Canisius and is a Jesuit school. Their freak adventure was a very early snow storm in October to where there was so much snow, and the trees still had their leaves, the branches and sometimes the leaves themselves snapped and fell...sometimes roots and all.

This caused power outages to lots of blocks, included dorms and classrooms on campus. Where our event was held, we had power so, "the band played on." We screened in a cultural center where it's a revamped old church with beautiful stained glass and stone work.

We sat in the greenroom during the movie and handled some phone call meetings since we were three hours ahead of most of our team back in California. They left us chocolate chip cookies and water, which is my favorite snack in the world. Ahhh....choc chip cookies.

For the Q&A, we had some great questions on the film and us personally. We always lay the groundwork that we're transparent and can answer anything asked...if we know the answer anyway. One person asked about the differences between marriage and civil unions and I told the audience how I feel when I'm reminded my status is considered second class because everytime I fill out my tax forms, I have to lie and say I'm single...under penalty of perjury no less. I'm not single. I'm married. But, I have to lie to my government because it judges my choice of love to another human being. I just have to laugh...probably because I don't know what else to do sometimes...that my marriage to Luane is decided upon as legit or not by strangers in voting booths by punching a card.

So, the best way we try to answer all questions is demonstrating what it's like for us, tell our personal stories. Then, the audience can decide on its own what it feels and believes. We can only tell our truth.

Buffalo also has an interesting plethora of Greek restaurants. Not sure why, but we always eat at locally owned cafes and restaurants wherever we travel so we can get the local feel and we kept ending up at Greek places. The food was excellent and our company was fantastic. We'd eat with other leaders at the University and we'd have some great, open and honest talks about issues effecting our lives. We broke all the dinner table etiquette rules and talked about religion and politics. We'd have some folks look over and stare, and that's okay. Glad they were interested and I hope they got something out of it.

Buffalo has a small gay area/street called Allentown and we just loved the old buildings. We went by an old church that Ani DeFranco bought and is renovating into a recording studio. There was this fantastic quilt tied between two trees in front of the church...not sure what it was doing out in the rain, but it was bright and colorful amonng the gray and brick.

Loved our visit to Buffalo. The students there have strong boundaries, they are motivated and have VERY strong ally support. One kid said there was another student calling him names and spitting on him and the kid told him to stop and when he didn't, he said the student crossed the line and put a restraining order on him due to harassment. THAT'S knowing and upholding your boundaries and nipping hatin' in the bud. Everyone deserves respect and just because you may not agree, doesn't give you the right to act like a dork.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

First Stop On Tour, Starting off Easy in...Virginia

Charlottesville, VA was our first stop on the fall 2006 tour. We did the red eye flight into Dave Matthews Band territory and was welcomed with Joy, our host, holding up a sign with our names on it. We had to take a picture by the baggage claim with her since we’d been in town two seconds and learned by the signage and flags all over the airport what “country” we were in now.

After some rest and a yummy stop at Panera, we arrived at the afternoon screening. It was the middle of day, didn’t know how much attendance we’d have but Kim the intern had this beautiful spread of veggies, drinks and cookies, the whole campus would be fed. The time came, soda cans popped, lights dimmed and the show went on. For the Q&A, we were told by students that there were a number of conservative Christian pastors in the audience, but they left immediately after the movie. There were also members of the campus republican club there. We loved it. Diversity and inclusion cross party lines…it’s unfortunately not as common, but it does and should exist. We had many straight allies in the audience and I made sure they felt the love we have for them in their showing up and caring about their fellow classmates not getting equal treatment.

The second showing was later that evening and the room was standing room only. Students sat on tables and leaned against walls to see the movie. Many people from the community came and we got to hear some really hard and some wonderful stories. The harder ones included a woman who was raised in what she called a “Christian cult” in New Mexico and was programmed at an early age that if she left, she’d go to hell. Fun, huh? Happy childhood memories... She still left but also still lives in fear that God not only may send her to hell for leaving the cult but now because she’s been in a long term relationship with another woman. She said the movie helped heal some of the hurt she’s been holding onto and it showed her not to stereotype all Christians as unaccepting. It’s true, there is so much support by mainstream Christians for GLBT people than what is said publicly (due to their fear of being socially punished) we cannot get stuck in the mire of lumping all religious folks into being uninformed and unaccepting. It’s just not true. We get emails and people (whispering) to us how they support equal rights but feel they can’t be outward about it in their church or community. This is a sad current state of affairs of course, as the negative stereotypes then stay alive and well about straight Christians and people and the subject continues to stay stuck. But, they are there, we promise. We hope those folks will see the movie and get the message that not only do gay people need to be honest and open of who they are but also straight allies must come out and be open and honest of their support and acceptance (mind you, I’m not saying tolerance…tolerance is unacceptable…and I hope you enjoy the double entendre of that statement).

Back to the cult woman, she mentioned if the unmarried gay and straight person’s marriage amendment passes, her and many others like her – gay and straight – will have to move out of the state. The amendment will prohibit further equal rights including hospital visits and she has health issues that should the time come, her partner will need to be there to make decisions on her behalf. They’ve been together 20+ years and there is no one else to be with her. With this law, her partner wouldn’t be allowed to be with her nor have power of attorney, etc. as she’d not be considered “family”. Think about that for a minute. What would that be like if you were in her situation? If you are straight, been with your spouse for 20 years and he/she couldn’t make decisions for you and that person knows you best? Some second cousin you barely know has more authority? Just pause and soak in that scenario for a minute. Remind me again how this promotes family values...

We also got to enjoy a good talk with an atheist bioengineering student who kept asking “who cares if it’s a choice or not?” as he’s really into the science of it all. It was great talking with him and it helped renew our faith in this collegiate generation that they too don’t all fall into the stereotype of being sheep who just memorize and are lethargic. We’re meeting outstanding minds and personalities and are better people because of it.