“Gay Rights” Photo Reflection: An Advocate Reflects on 12 Years

In an effort to purge some of my memorabilia from relationships past, I sat down with boxes of cards, poems, photos, and keepsakes from the last 12 years and came across a portrait of something more powerful than my difficult past… Something beyond finding love after religious and sexual trauma…

I found a series of news articles from June 2003, highlighting the major headlines that shaped the movement for equality in America. I saved these articles, just one month after graduation from Cincinnati Christian University, where I was closeted for years. All of these articles, I cherished,  a year year before I published Coming Out without Coming Apart.

I placed these news articles in this collage below…

Equality_2003

And I leave this photo with you, to begin your own reflection on what we have accomplished in the last 12 years. We have a long way to go…

But looking back on half a generation of advocacy work represented in this short photo reflection, I can say the following:

I finally believe that I am whole.

I finally believe that my country can learn to respect my dignity as a citizen.

I finally believe that I can choose faith or I can leave it if it does not lift me higher.

I finally believe that my bedroom and my body are mine.

I finally believe that my President is on my side.

I see evidence that Love really does matter.

After all we’ve seen in the last 12 years, maybe we can finally believe that we DO belong…

One can hope.

Consider for yourselves, how far we’ve come and perhaps you can believe in our ability to go even farther!

Namaste, yo.

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

My Better Half, My Better Self: A Letter to my Wife

This piece is for lovers… and those who believe in lifelong love, no matter how long it takes for life to present it to us.

To My Dear Wife,

I’ve never known someone like you – your willingness to walk through the uncertainties of all that is unstable, whether it be economic, emotional, physical, or just plain human, is more than commendable. It’s life. As Neruda says, “In your life I see everything that lives.”

IMG_6007You go toward all living things and every corner of humanity. I see it in your work and friendships but pleasure of all pleasure, I see it in how you approach me…

I recently wrote about my survivor experience and how powerful it is that you became the woman who was detached enough to let me be fully present for my recovery process, but also attached enough in love and trust, to bear witness to it.

I think about moments like those, when what moves between us is a flow of honesty… words, facial expressions, silence, an embrace… it is simply, unguarded honesty.

It doesn’t bite back in selfishness or fear.

It doesn’t look away as if it is overly concerned or intimidated.

It doesn’t find tools to help as if it is so awkward that it needs to fix the discomfort.

It loves.

It’s honest.

IMG_6040I have caught glimpses of this intimacy, but never has it stayed so constant, before you. I held out hope for it – like an oasis for my dehydrated soul.

And so you have come to me… and I have come to you. This is our marriage.

I remember all these years of wanting marriage, watching other marriages grow, fall apart, thrive, or end. I’ve been learning about marriage all my life – what makes a marriage look “good” to me and what makes marriage look impossible. Most importantly, I’ve listened to couples speak of when they knew that the one they love was the one they wanted to grow old with…

I knew that the day I met you.

Of course, I didn’t know how to let my heart run with that feeling at first, and that’s okay too – but I learned from others, how to stay open to this kind of love.

One of those “others” was my friend Katie, who you would never get a chance to meet, because her life and our stories could never intersect. She died during a season when the narratives between us were farther than I ever imagined they could be… but I was there when she married the love of her life… I remember her emails before her wedding day, as she discussed the priority of her partnership and their life together. I was there when she spoke of commitment, faith, and a hope for a life full of laughter and mutual acceptance. At her wedding, I remember even knowing that the one I was there with, didn’t compare to the “you” I still believed was out there. I was prepared to settle to never have what I saw in their marriage because I wrongfully believed it was only for them.

It was the way they looked at each other – such grace and such simplicity…

For over a decade of my adult life, I’ve held out hope that what I learned from their relationship could become a part of my life. I held out hope that I could learn from others, that even death could not separate the heart from a lifelong love…

All these years later, here you are, my wife, supporting and loving me as I become my better self… and we get to learn from each other, how OUR marriage will grow.

IMG_6042 (1)Sometimes I feel like I’m late to the game on this – so many other experiences and I’m now well into my mid-30’s as if I’m an old maid… I have my baggage, but I’m here.

We are here. And this is our marriage…

I used to believe that it was really important to correct people when they described their partner as their “better half.” As a woman who values her independence and autonomy, I would mock that concept, even when I was in partnerships before you – I wasn’t anyone’s “half” because I am WHOLE.

The truth is that a marriage is whole, but comprised of two whole people – and in some ways, you truly are the better half of this marriage. And in perfect form, I’ve heard you say the same about me – that’s what loving couples mean when they call the other, “the better half.” It is a respectful and humble acknowledgement that this marriage would be nothing without you, and I in it, am better because of you.

Today, as you travel the globe in your work, my heart travels the depth of relationships – reflections on loss, hopes, dreams, grief, and… all emotions. As I soar above it, I am a poetic jumble of anticipation about how our family will evolve and how our connection will only deepen… but in the midst of that creative chaos, I am here with a sense of peace and acceptance.

I found the one to call “wife.”

And you found me.

On this relevant day, in real time, with a vulnerable voice, I celebrate our transparent life.

That is our marriage.

Te amo, mi amor – my better half, my better self ~
Gail

~~

In loving memory of Katie Reider – (May 23, 1978 – July 14, 2008)

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

 

The Evolution of a Survivor: Emotional Resilience

Darwin_ResilientI’ve been working on a new writing project which dives into survivor experiences, as a means of highlighting what we understand about resilience, grief, and the healing journey after trauma. As I partner with other survivors, advocates, and psychologists, I notice that there is a sense of “strength” in this work. I’m preparing to launch the project as an e-book and it will hopefully highlight our experiences, educate the media, and provide support to those who are finding their way through the healing process. The project has been called “brave” and “powerful” by those who have reviewed the outreach approach and the content… yet…

We need to be transparent about our emotional resilience and its source.

I’m not brave.

I am not even strong.

I just evolved under changing and traumatic circumstances.

When my father emotionally abused my family, I learned to be responsive to change.

Home isn’t safe? I will evolve.

When my neighbor abused my body, I learned to be responsive to change.

My body isn’t safe? I will evolve.

When my church abused my mind, I learned to be responsive to change.

Spirituality isn’t safe? I will evolve.

When my peers abused my spirit, I learned to be responsive to change.

Being me isn’t safe? I will evolve.

To all of us, who have evolved from every unsafe environment and emerged each time as a new species within our own emotional ecosystem, know that I see you.

Others may think we are on the top of the emotional food chain and can handle anything.

And we can… and we will.

But sometimes rather than being viewed as the person who will “always survive,” we koalaknow we want to be viewed as the small and cuddly chipmunk, lower on the food chain, but adorable and cute too. We want to be seen as the butterfly, magnificent in her transformation, but fragile in flight. Sometimes… we are just a koala… looking for a tree branch and a soft place to call home.

Pay close attention to why some people are so “strong.” It may be simply because a tragic evolution required them to learn to stand alone…

I am fortunate because I finally met a woman who could walk this journey with me – recently, when my wife read through the survivor project, she did the unthinkable as a response – she put down the pages, said nothing, and simply hugged me – for those moments, I didn’t have to explain anything.

I didn’t have to describe my writing process.

I didn’t have to rehash anything I wrote.

I didn’t have to outline my plan for publication or my next steps as a writer/survivor advocate.

Before the editing, feedback, questions, or encouragement in the project, there was only the hug.

The best hug ever, honestly.

Because without words, she told me, “I see your resilience is because you weren’t safe…

And with that, I knew…

I am safe now.

My home, my body, my spirituality – me.

It’s safe to be me.

Evolve well, my friends. We are not alone. Namaste.

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.