Monday, March 26, 2007

Transitioning City Manager in Florida in Transition

There's an interesting situation going on in Largo Florida these days. 48-year old Steve Stanton has been the city manager, and a good one, and he was outed as planning a sex-change operation in 2008 and beginning to live as a woman pre-op this summer. It threw the city residents and employees into a tizzy and he's been fired from his job. But it's okay, his contract says he can be fired from his job without cause at any time. Sounds like a crappy contract. Always read the fine print! It's one of the reasons we are self-distributing God & Gays, "standard" contracts are usually (not always) obscenely bias to the interests of the Goliath and it's up to the Davids to have the lawyer or lawyer-like knowledge to fight the uphill battle to fairness. Can you imagine how much money, time and a better working relationship it'd be if contracts started off being fair? I digress. Being a producer, I read a lot of contracts and it's not my favorite part of the job so when I see someone so overtly screwed by a line in a contract that shouldn't be there anyway because it's not fair-minded, I get riled up.

There's great debate around the City Manager ordeal. This guy has done a good job. Steve living and looking like a woman shouldn't affect his job at such a level to lose it entirely. I wonder what he was thinking as he lead up to the announcement of his plans. He had to figure he may not be welcomed and celebrated, even though his decision to become more of who he is shouldn't be judged by others as it has nothing to do with them. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing to do with them. Maybe he had trust and faith in the good of people like Anne Frank. Maybe he came to the surrender that he knew he needed to live openly and honestly to who he is, give others the chance to learn, love and grow from the opportunity and just see what happens.

I'm not shocked he was removed from his post, although he doesn't deserve it. Had he not been outed, had he always felt like a man inside and was contented by his gender identity, he'd still be merrily rolling along at his job.

But at least he had the guts to risk the publicity, the slurs, the ignorance, the lack of acceptance and understanding in order to be more of who he is. Fortunately, Equality Florida, churches and others have stepped up in support for Steve Stanton. He knows there's a segment of society that "gets it", well, maybe not all get it but we don't need to in order to support him and his courage. His situation is a testimony of what each of us must do to be more of who are. Maybe it's not a sex-change for you or me, maybe it won't be so public and there won't be hearings deciding your fate, but it still takes the courage and that's what matters. Ya gotta respect Steve.

Do you have the guts to live your life fully? I can safely bet he's already feeling happier and more relief at the most public time of his life. He's now aligned and will most likely only get stronger. Good for him, good for us all. Feel free to email comments of support to Largo city council and officers for Steve and his situation. It's heartbreaking to see that 7 people can make the call on such important decisions and 5 of them voted fear-based. Ugh. Here's to focusing on what we want to have happen...thank God for those two who voted for her!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Queer Youth Are Human

Around the country, there will be marches by GLBT youth and their supporters to several state capitols on Monday March 26th. It's happening in California and sponsored by Equality California. It's fun here in California right now as we have the most equality-supporting state assembly in a long time and they are reviewing several bills inching the state towards equality for GLBT folks. However, we have an actor as our governor and regardless of how his wife feels, one of his staff's orientation, the movement of the people in California, the wake of Newsome's marriages in San Francisco and his own touching letter ad supporting equality in last year's Human Rights Campaign gala program, he plans on vetoing marriage equality.

Luane and I recently attended a Lambda Legal function in San Francisco and in the midst of the yummy quesadillas and offering my name tag to Kevin, the ED of LL since we couldn't find one for him, I asked anyone who'd listen if there's been a possibility to have the open and affirming churches band together like the evangelical unsupportive ones have and counter sue the measures to vote in discrimination at the state and federal level.

What shut Newsome's marriage licenses down was suits by conservative church interest groups. So, where's the open and affirming church interest groups to counter? Why do the "no's" get a louder voice? Why were they able to stop the marriages when there was so much obvious support? Why didn't the voices of love and equality prevail?

I asked my sister if she'd sing a song her husband and friend wrote called "Human" at our upcoming conference. She was into it, her husband was cool with it...and the friend said no because he didn't want the song associated with the movie. I guess a song called "Human" has no place with our movie. Hmm. I sniff a pattern here.

I bring this random story up to show that even though majority ruled and it was ruling from a loving place, the fear-based, lack of understanding single voice won. We won't have "Human" sung at our conference, the positive, healing, compassionate message of the song will go unheard.

I actually get why the open and affirming, progressive, equality-minded churches aren't suing. That's not who they are. They don't spend time that way because suing is fear-based. As I've mentioned before a quote from Howard Thurman, "No one ever wins a fight" and they get that fighting isn't Jesus-like, it's not "Christian".

So, the squeaky wheel still gets the oil in the legislative world and the queer youth have to march to help shape their future to make the world a better place than they've found it.

They are focusing on the change they want to see. They are focusing on what they want to have happen and aren't cowering to circumstances. We encourage you and remind ourselves that in any way we can, we must support the Yes, support the queer and allies that say "yes, I am Human".

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Just, please, say something!

I'm blessed with many people from around the world forwarding links to articles, videos, blogs, etc. to help us keep our ear on the ground of what's going on in the reconciliation movement. Our biggest concern is how people are being affected by the discourse. There's lots of people talking, but who are the listeners and what are they doing with what they hear? Is it helping or harming? Is it building people up, or breaking them down?

We were perusing through YouTube, read some articles about the "revolutionaries" of evangelical Christianity and finally caught up on an Oprah episode from December on amazing family stories. These seemingly disparate mediums had one common theme that jumped out at me.

There was a lot of talk...and nothing was actually being said. Why was that?

For example, there's a Joel Osteen video on YouTube where he and his wife are asked by Larry King their thoughts on homosexuality and what they'd do if/when one of their kids came out to them. Their answers did involve verbal response but the body language and lack of quality or depth of the answers was more emphasized.

On the Oprah episode, 14 Christian families in North Carolina adopted several orphans from Liberia while the children were in a traveling choir. No doubt the act is noble. When Oprah was wanting to learn how the culture shocks were dealt with, what the parents hoped for the children given this opportunity to live in America, etc....the answers were so on the surface, we learned nothing. I felt like they either hadn't thought much about it, or very deeply, or didn't want to tell the truth and only talk about God's nudge to adopt these children. It felt as shallow as asking them to tell me about the Bible and their answer would be "it's a good book."

This is something I've noticed for decades about people in general and something I self-check and make sure I'm working on. I used to teach a critical thinking course on the media. For a course with such subjective grading criteria, the only time an answer was flat out wrong was when there was no thought or effort behind it, when we learned nothing from it, like the Bible is a good book, the movie was "cool", and "I dunno, I just liked the TV show, it was good."

Sure, we don't have to analyze everything, but I do think it's worthwhile to challenge or at least pause once in a while and excavate where our beliefs come from - if they are really ours or are they our parents, or our friends, or an institution like church or government. God speaks to us through our intuition, which is our individuality. Do we tell the truth of our thoughts when we speak, even if it's good stuff like learning how Caucasian American families adjusted to African, Liberian teenagers in their home? Are we too much in the habit of saying what we think others want to hear, will approve of, will be the Christian answer, will be the "right" answer?

Owning our own beliefs and not having to tap dance or pretend when asked good questions worthy of thoughtful and sincere answers, builds us up and teaches others. So, I pray we shed the parroting, and speak thoughtfully so we can all learn something once in a while. I just want to learn from these articles, videos, blogs, I want to be fed nutritional meals of authenticity and wisdom. And I hope this blog is helpful, I hope it builds you up, I hope it feeds you like it feeds me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sexual Energy Meets Spiritual Energy

I was sent a quote that I wanted to share with y'all:

"Sexual Energy and Spiritual Energy are identical Energy. When you are tuned in, tapped in, turned on--that's the "turned on". When Source Energy flows through you, it flows through you. You cannot separate one from the other."

This quote hits our message right on. There's a part in the movie where Mel White says "come out, come out, wherever you are" and then describes how yes, by being honest about who he is and accepting himself, he lost a great deal personally and professionally. AND he gained so much more. He's since re-emerged as a fantastically successful author who's writings like Stranger at the Gate has literally saved hundreds and hundreds of lives. He says in the movie, you become the greater live-r, the greater creator, once we get on with who God made us to be.

I try to back up this point at our Q&A appearances. I talk about how I need everyone in that audience to turn down the volume of drama (as Rev. Deborah says, "drama is optional") in their lives and get on with the work we are here to do. We are here to live big, not play small. We are here to be a benefit, not a hardship to society...and ourselves. We are meant to, as my grandfather put it, "leave a room better than we found it". The more we put that mission off, the more society will dis-ease and deteriorate. It's totally reversible, we just have to choose to live out loud.

In a puritan society that either embraces the purity and judges others on it or rebels against it, the quote pasted above is a simple reminder that God made us together as one. Rev. Deborah talks about "the only thing that needs to be healed is the SENSE of separation". The separation between us is not real, it's perception. The separation from God is not real, it's perception. The separation within our sexual and spiritual selves is not real, it's perception. Everywhere around us is oneness. The sooner we get this, the sooner us and the world are healed. It's really not anymore complicated than that. That's it. The answer to all our questions is just love. The rest is drama. Enjoy being together, inside and out.

Join us with Rev. Deborah Thurs April 5th 5pm PDT/8pm EDT LIVE on a teleconference call from the privacy of your own home. To register, go to

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Senate Bills in Salem

Luane and I just returned from Salem, Oregon where Willamette University hosted God & Gays and our Q&A event. We had a great time, the rain actually took a break, which is odd as there's many jokes about Oregonians rusting in the summertime. I was born in Portland, Oregon, lived in the Portland suburb of Milwaukie for some of my childhood. It was a fantastic trip for me and well timed.

Recently, Luane and I have been clearing and organizing our garage to make way for our new family member, the Toyota Prius. I've been going through a bunch of boxes containing the remains of my childhood and adolescence. It's wild to see some of those photos, read those notes from Chemistry and watch my handwriting morph to the small print I do today.

To visit Oregon and see some of our family's stomping grounds...Lew's Dairy Freeze on McLoughlin near the Bomber restaurant and see our favorite Chinese restaurant as an empty building now that the owners have passed away...has been in some ways healing and in some ways feeling proud of my past because it made me who I am today.

I visited the Church of Christ where I was baptized at 12. I asked one of the women there how the Church of Christ is involved and handling the reconciliation dialogue and she said "we aren't." So, I asked how that's working for them, "not so great." I mentioned the stories I've been told of Harding University students committing suicide over the pressure of their beliefs and their orientation. She mentioned she's lost some friends the same way for the same reason.

I was actually inspired. The woman was kind and she was courageous. She reminded me that facts change. Facts are a snapshot in time and "this too shall pass". Her church is transitioning to being more authentically welcoming and becoming more contemporary in its style and outreach. It's a fantastic start.

I felt a shift going on in Oregon while we ran around the state, visited folks at the grass roots level and met people along the way. Currently, there are two bills in the state legislature. One about domestic partnerships and one for adding sexual orientation and gender expression as part of discrimination protection. Currently, a gay man can be fired from his job, refused housing, etc. just for being gay. At night, after the screening event, Luane and I were winding down and flipped through the TV channels. We stopped when we saw the local community station airing the hearing of SB2 which is the discrimination bill. We listened to arguments pro and con. It was fascinating. All the clergy we saw attend were for the allowance of sexual orientation being included. One minister said he felt the state government needed to lead the way for the churches as churches are historically the last ones to catch on to equality, civil rights and acceptance. Churches are the slowest to get God's message. Something funny about that.

Earlier in the day, Luane and I spoke in a Rhetoric of Religion class. This was really different than other classes we've spoken in. Our talk was more about how the messages around the topic are communicated and why. Being a media theory prof in the past, I loved it. Several guys stayed back after class and we had long talks, sometimes that's our favorite thing to do. We do most of the listening and in some cases, we're the first to hear from a student that they're struggling and just want to talk about it, just tell someone they feel safe with.

It's common our movie and event brings people out of the woodwork, out of the closet sometimes just because they finally have open support and a safe place to go. The Q&A crowd was very cool and gave us a standing ovation at the end.

Oregon's got it goin' on and I'm proud to be an Oregonian.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Challenges or Chances?

As you know, we've been in the mega planning stages for God & Gays: The Conference 2007, "Unity Is Our Identity" event coming this summer. It's been painful to not tell you all the amazing speakers we have...and the musicians too, wow! We're only a few weeks away from making our announcement and opening up registration. Hopefully, you've been saving that vacation day and set aside some moola for airfare and hotel. You have to be at this event, it's truly one of a kind. And it's been built with a lot of love from a lot of people, just for you.

By planning the conference, we have had tremendous success in getting people to appear. People from all walks of life have stepped up and shown their energy and support and when we see and get to feel that warmth, we know we're doing the right thing.

Then there's the times where things are going so smoothly...and then a hiccup. For example, to help keep the costs down and be able to publicize the Conference the way we're planning, we've needed to hold a few fundraisers. We're seeking people who get what this event will do in people's lives, who get the vision of providing such unconditional support. We're looking to bridge a gap, not only with the movie but also the Conference. There's conferences, curriculum, organizations, etc. that approach politics, law, pastors, denomination leaders, business leaders and thank God for them and the work they do. The area we can serve is providing safe space for the silent and struggling, for their parents, for their colleagues, their neighbors sitting with them in church and for the straight but not narrow supporters to come and show their strength.

The hiccup we've been experiencing lately resembles the challenges we had when making the movie. Corporations and business support and cheer us on, but feel they can't publicly support or help provide backing. We made the movie from church, individual and credit card money. We were determined to tell this story and have accumulated a great deal of support since it's been made. People seem to get it after it's when I've finished doing the dishes and Luane comes in and asks if she could help...a little too late, but the intention is received.

Now, we're in this stage again of starting something new and the same challenges arise...businesses still are shying away, etc. Like completing the movie, we'll continue to forge on and hold this Conference. It has to be an option for people. What other options are there? Exodus International and Cross Ministries have continual one day conferences at churches that attract thousands of people. They recently had Phoenix, AZ buzzing.

If people really think their only choice is to just pray harder and numb yourself to a spiritual zombie in an unhappy heterosexual marriage, it's just nuts and I can't sit by and let it happen. I know we can reconcile, I know God made us this way, I know God wants us to live fully, honestly and completely to our potential and spend our energy giving to others and making this a more beautiful world versus wallowing in drama and self torture victimization.

So the movie is more than a movie to us. These hiccups, these challenges, these "no's" are just "okay then, next!" chances. The conference will happen. It'll be affordable to attend. It will blow your mind. It'll change your heart. It'll help all of us be more of who we are.

Please be in prayer for us throughout the rest of the planning stages. We feel so blessed to have this chance, to have this opportunity to serve in this way. Thanks for being with us and if you're wondering how you can help, the best thing you could do is share this blog, our web site, the link to purchase the DVD with everyone you know. If you're in chat rooms, bring up the movie and how people can get it. If you are in social networking groups, tell your network, if you belong to a church, get an insert in your bulletin...this is how you can help us. This is how you can help us, help you (to quote Jerry MacGuire). There are no challenges before us, only chances. Thanks for taking this chance with us.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Wanna Talk to Rev. Deborah Johnson?

Thanks to everyone who joined us last week on our first God, Gays & You Live Interview call with Luane and I. The questions were great, we hope something we said was helpful and informative. We didn't mention Dotti Berry and her arrest at Focus on the Family because we thought you'd prefer to hear the story from her mouth directly!

Dotti and her partner Robynne will join us for the May call along with someone who used to indirectly work for Focus on the Family, Darlene Bogle. Darlene just published her long-awaited follow up to Long Road to Love which was written when she worked as a leader for Exodus International (which is supported by Focus on the Family). Darlene has lived a lot of life since those days and her story is captivating. You hear some of it in our movie but to learn more, check out her new book, A Christian Lesbian Journey.

In April, we will have the one and only, Rev. Deborah Johnson on the conference call. Many of you have mentioned how she affected you through the movie, some have said you'd do anything just to say thank you to her, for her words touching you so deeply and changing you.

Now's your chance. Join us Thursday, April 5th 5pm PDT/8pm EDT for a one hour exclusive interview and Q&A session with "Rev. D.". We'll also officially announce our conference line up, location and dates. You gotta be on this call, there'll never be another one like it! Luane and I will take your questions over yahoo! IM and ask them for you to Rev. D. during the call and if time permits, we'll open up the lines and take your verbal questions or comments.

The whole year of the God, Gays & You Series is all scheduled and it's all for you. Subscribe to the Series today: As a subscriber, you'll get access to the recorded version of the call to download and keep.

Hope you can join us...I CAN'T WAIT for Thursday, April 5th. Talk to you then!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Our 8 Mile

As you know, Luane is training for a marathon for the Leukemia Society's team in training. I was able to join her last weekend during the "buddy run". Keep in mind, I played softball, volleyball and basketball in my youth and although I've been raised around a bunch of long-distance and marathon runners, I've not been one myself.

However, my native American grandmother did give me the name "Gazelle". I have a picture of a cartoon gazelle on my cell phone, it's a great reminder...that I have long legs.

One of the workshops I teach is about getting out of our comfort zones. Now, I'm big on practicing what one preaches so to run with Luane during the 8 mile buddy run was a big step out of my comfort zone. The most I'd ever run at once was 4 miles, and that was just a couple of months ago.

When we showed up to the stretching area to begin the buddy run, I couldn't believe where we were and the trail we were to take. Where we live, we have beaches and mountains. This run was in the mountains. No joke. Not only was I expected to run 8 miles at 7.30am on a Saturday, but in the mountains. Starting at the bottom. Winding around to go back up again. Twice.

Fortunately, I didn't head trip for long. I just stretched, let the mountain be a mole hill and started running. And I'm still alive and can walk. I did it, I ran 8 miles and Luane who just a few years ago was on her back from five car accidents in one year, ran 8 miles too.

So, Luane and I are taking on all kinds of comfort zone breakers in our personal and professional life (see the consistency blog below), we encourage you to do the same. It's fun and we can all use a little more fun.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Blogging on Olivia

Great news...Olivia Cruises is starting a social networking site and they've asked us to be featured blogging columnists. I'll be doing most of the blogging a couple days a week, Luane will dictate her parts (I type faster) as the blog will be more broad than this blog, we'll talk about films, filmmaking and well, whatever we feel like talking about I suppose.

The site is in beta now, the blogs will go up the beginning of April. Stay tuned and we'll let you know when it's live. Be assured you don't have to be a woman or even gay to be on the site. It's an equal opportunity site of course. Hope you'll participate and enjoy the new Olivia site!