For Immediate Release – #Recovery In Real Time: A Trauma Survivor’s Anti-Workbook Coming Summer 2016

 

~ FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 31, 2016 ~ Cover_#RealTime

Survivors of trauma are gaining increasing coverage in the media. Because of pop culture cautionary tales like the Duggar Family, coupled with a call to action from celebrity icons like Lady Gaga, many are moving away from the standardized textbooks for trauma recovery. Survivors crave social media support and are inspired by self-help-driven tweets. #RECOVERY IN REAL TIME: A TRAUMA SURVIVOR’S ANTI-WORKBOOK by Gail Dickert, provides a modernized guidebook for trauma survivors and their loved ones in 125 hashtags.

#RECOVERY IN REAL TIME is a concise and user-guided walk through a trauma survivor’s on-going recovery experience. With survivor-focused hashtags like #DenialIsContagious, #ReasonCanFail, #LyingIsSurvival, #TherapyIsTerrifying, #WeAreNotNormal, and #MediaDistortsTrauma Dickert’s Anti-Workbook provides survivors and their loved ones with relevant and poignant highlights of the cycle of recovery which includes major stages such as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

#RECOVERY IN REAL TIME is a non-fiction self-help book with an anti-workbook length and approach that appeals directly to people who desperately need a real time version of Ellen Bass’/Laura Davis’ THE COURAGE TO HEAL. Due to the nature of Dickert’s diverse experience with trauma, #RECOVERY IN REAL TIME offers relevant recovery concepts for survivors of combat, physical abuse, or any situation that was traumatic. This condensed guide meets survivors’ need for digestible yet realistic snapshots of the life-long recovery process.

#RECOVERY IN REAL TIME will be available exclusively through Publishing For a Change, LLC Summer 2016!

Author_Bio_2016_1Gail Dickert is an indie author, blogger, and children/youth advocate who has published two previous auto-biographical works related to grief, personal growth, spirituality, and self-acceptance. Enlightened-ish and Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams currently remain available at http://www.amazon.com. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for conversion therapy survivors and young people. Dickert currently volunteers with the RAINN Speaker’s Bureau and co-facilitator at Beyond Ex Gay. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine 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. Currently, Dickert resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center. #Recovery In Real Time: A Trauma Survivor’s Anti-Workbook is the first project under Publishing for a Change, LLC, of which she serves as Founder and President. Follow her work at www.homospirituailty.com and beginning Summer 2016, at www.publishingforachange.com.

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.

 

 

When Abusers Speak for God: 5 Reasons I’ve Had Enough

survivor project unbreakableI’ve seen it in almost every church I’ve ever attended…

Emotional abusers who claim that “hardship” is what “God” intends for the faithful.

I’ve heard it in almost every church I’ve attended…

Sexual abusers who claim that “girls” should be “more careful” how they dress.

I’ve felt it in almost every church I’ve attended…

Physical abusers whose “humility to ask for forgiveness” allow them access to beat their wives repeatedly.

Aren’t we tired yet, of all of the abusers who claim to speak for God?

Let’s just come out and put it clearly in the words of Tori Amos:

God, sometimes you just don’t come through… do you need a woman to look after you?”

As a survivor of conversion therapy, I know all about leaders who speak for God. They spoke for “God” about the “miracle” of healing a person from homosexuality through shame-tactics and brainwashing techniques, sometimes combined with a few false memories and exaggerated gender-norming strategies.

But more than this, I know all about leaders who speak for God when it comes to innocent children…

It was leaders who “spoke for God” who told me at 12 years old, that I could be a good Christian “witness” (or example) to my abuser, if only I would pray more…

I just recently came forward publicly as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse – and a separate attack at age 15, from a “trusted adult” figure in the church. Why did I stay silent all these years, aside from writing about it in Enlightened-ish and a few obscure blog pieces?

The reasons have to do with how survivors stories sound out of the mouths of those who claim to speak for God.

Now with this week’s news of a religious-based TV show being taken off the air because of the scandal involving years of sexual abuse by a man who claims to be an authority on morality, would you think I am going to say anything that hasn’t been said?

Do you think after all I’ve experienced, I would want to shed some light on this for survivors?

You thought right… because if I’m going to lift myself out of this stink that is my newsfeed right now, I have to find my voice.

Overall, I picked “5” Reasons I’ve had enough because I disclosed to FIVE Christian adults that I was being abused by my neighbor… so in the memory of their failure to actually SPEAK UP FOR ME, I offer these reasons.

5 Reasons I’ve Had Enough of Abusers who Claim to Speak for God:

1. I’ve had enough because… abusers don’t get to “spiritualize” their psychological issues.

Child abusers abuse for lots of reasons, but “God” is not one of those reasons. I mean, if God “is” a reason, then that’s another piece. Let’s stop pretending that “God” has anything to do with the mental illness and lack of empathy that abusers have towards their victims.

2. I’ve had enough because… bystanders don’t get to spiritualize our psychological trauma.

Abuse survivors need professional mental health support to recover from these experiences. Trying to “heal” through prayers is like trying to change a tire by drinking a latte. (No, it doesn’t make sense!) It’s time we emphasize the separation of church and… actual mental health support.

3. I’ve had enough because… God really doesn’t have a reputation for being emotionally sound.

Let’s stop pretending like God is actually love. Jesus and some of the other prophets and teachers along the path of spirituality seem to have some sound emotional awareness sometimes, but what we “know” about “God” based on sacred texts is that he/it is the kind of being who likes trauma. (i.e. wars, floods, plagues, human sacrifice, hell, apocalypse, etc.) Trauma survivors don’t need spiritual drama – they have enough actual drama with their healing process.

4. I’ve had enough because… if there is a God, she might not “forgive.”

Let’s pretend for a moment that no one actually believes in the “god” that is presented in sacred texts. Instead of an emotionally unstable bully with strange rules and a hang-up on sexuality, let’s say we believe in a “god” form who is full of sensibility and boundaries. Perhaps we believe in a “god” who balances out the shameful with peace or a “god” who makes wrongs right through justice. If this god exists, I wager she doesn’t simply “forgive” an abuser… she seeks justice and peace.

5. I’ve had enough because… God wasn’t actually there.

Did God “watch” as I was molested repeatedly, against my will, by an older man who knew I was uncomfortable and scared? Did God “watch” as I reached out to trusted religious adults who shamed me further for “allowing” these abusive events to happen? Did God “watch” when I was almost raped by another older boy who was “well-liked” by the church community?

No. Stop it. God wasn’t “there.”

I was there.

So above all, let’s remember the survivor who was actually there... and rather than speaking for a being that did nothing, let’s turn our attention towards the survivors who are finding their voices. Let’s lend our ears to the survivors who are doing SOMETHING, by speaking out, finding a reason to trust, a reason to believe, and a reason to live.

Let’s try that, folks. Because I’ve had enough of hearing from ANYONE who speaks for God.

How about you? Had enough yet?

Namaste, my friends. Tread lightly, walk gently… you know a survivor. It’s time to pay attention and if you speak for anyone, speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

~~

PS. For more information about sexual assault, please check out RAINN.

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.

Now that I’m Gay Married… 4 Things Changed

Well, we all know that gay marriage is significantly different than “traditional” marriage, so from about a month into this arrangement that threatens the family, I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned now that I’m Gay Married.

1. Being gay married changed the way I sleep.

Every night before we go to bed, we have this gay ritual of thanking the gay fairies for their bountiful blessings upon our gay marriage. It’s a little over the top, but whatever. It’s all part of tearing apart the fabric of humanity.

2. Being gay married changed the way I breathe.

I had no idea that between every blissful breath, I would be required by the Gay Bylaws of Ruining Traditional Marriage, to state, “I’m here I’m queer, I’m married, now!” every time we go out in public. Again, it’s a bit excessive and perhaps somewhat annoying, but I guess this is Gay Marriage. I have to adjust. I still feel bad for my local coffee shop barista. I mean, it’s just an iced tall chai, but now it is an Iced Tall I’M GAY MARRIED chai. Yeesh.

3. Being gay married changed the way I think.

Being conscious of all the gay things I have to do as a part of this agenda can be very exhausting. When I started to write thank-you cards for the wedding gifts, I was really distracted by the importance of tossing in political and super gay words into all those cards. Duh Gail, you’re gay married… be sure to mention Stonewall, Pride Parades, and how it feels to pave a rainbow path to eternal damnation when you’re thinking of your wedding day and all those beautiful friends/family members who shared those moments with you.

4. Being gay married changed the way I eat.

All this gay food is really different in gay marriage. At every meal, to keep it balanced, we make sure we have a food from every level of the gay food pyramid. We have something organic, something local, something pink and something purple, etc. I never thought the Gay Marriage Dietary laws would be so complicated but again, I’m Gay Married now… life is different.

And satire – well, satire is long gone. I mean, the honeymoon period couldn’t be more annoying. The way we look into each other’s gay married eyes and say things like, “Our gay married life is so fun and I gay love you so much,” would really frustrate most people. But we can handle it. We are gay brave. Our gay married bliss is really just a burden we are willing to bear…

Seriously now, folks.

This piece is in response to a very unexpected encounter I’ve recently had with the 1996-1999 version of myself and an oppressed personal history in Cincinnati, Ohio. I look back at it and sometimes I hope to divorce myself from it. But, if being gay married has taught me anything so far, it’s that I don’t want to divorce myself from my self-hating, spiritually suffocated past…

I want to move towards it with sarcasm and gentility… today, sarcasm, clearly.

But soon, I will have to integrate the fact that every silly thing I have long renounced about the religiously-based prejudice towards gay people was in fact, a fire that used to fuel my own warped beliefs…

I always hated the phrase, “There but by the grace of God go I,” but looking back on a tainted history of faith experiences, lost community, and broken friendships, combined with a limited worldview and laced with self-hate, I do wonder how I got here…

Anyway, I jest at how “gay marriage” changed me when the truth is, it didn’t change me.

It has done nothing but allow me to BE me.

I’m a month into this marriage “thing” and there’s nothing “gay” about it – it’s a sacred union of two people who are still in a honeymoon phase of long gazes, endless inside jokes, stomach butterflies of joyful overwhelm, and tearful conversations of gratitude.

gay_marriage_groundbreakingI can only say one more thing about it all right now: Share this post not because sarcasm feels good (and it does 😉 )  but also because you can remember a time when sarcasm was the only tool you had in admitting your own shortcomings. Sometimes we need to laugh… sometimes grief taps most gently on the doors of our hearts through snarky reflections and eye rolls…

And then comes another layer of forgiveness… brace for it.

It’s coming…

Namaste, yo.

And many thanks to Over the Rhine, for being a mirror of music, art, community, marriage, and faith – unbeknownst to them, my journey from 1996-present has their music as a personal soundtrack… And in true honeymoon bliss, I say that until next blog…

I’m wide awake
And the world can wait
” – OTR, The World Can Wait

[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCLu464SxOk”%5D

~~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new 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 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.

10 Things to Know about Ex-Gay Survivors

freedom_meme

I step back often, from my role as an advocate for survivors, because no matter how much time has passed, I am still a survivor myself, which means I need time to simply “be” and not be enmeshed in the gross social and religious assumptions and obsessions that are tied to my experience.

Survivors of most hate crimes can relate.

Plus, I’m getting married in 23 days! Who has time to reflect on their drama when there is so much joy and celebration ahead? (Update: Married Nov 2015. #RebrandMarriage 😉 )

When I came across the quote, “She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom,” this post began to form. It is because of the freedom that I have – to love, and be loved, that I am able to recognize the old weight of putting myself and my own needs second to an institution, a relationship, a career – a faith. I will delve into my story again soon, after I enjoy some wedding bliss and my wife may also share her perspectives with my story, as we write together… but until then, I offer you…

10 Things to Know about Ex-Gay Survivors

When you hear about conversion therapy or “ex-gay survivors,” please consider this list as a means of relating to our stories and perhaps removing the stigma associated with our former efforts to divorce ourselves from our sexuality.

1. The ex-gay survivor is a person who stepped into a place of sacred trust with people who projected and idolized profane theology and psychology… but lived to tell about it.

2. The ex-gay survivor is a person who may not want to discuss the obstacles that he still faces when it comes to sexuality because the cult-like logic used to shame him still travels sensitive neuropathways in his brain. Be aware what you can trigger for him.

3. The ex-gay survivor is a person who may not be able to form any kind of positive belief system around religion and should not be pressured to do so… ever. If there is a God, that God will understand. You should too.

4. The ex-gay survivor may not be outspoken about her experience. She may feel that the best path to recovery is showing her freedom by quietly living a life out of the limelight.bxg_Losing_Religion

5. The ex-gay survivor may not have been abused by anyone or anything in their homes, but instead, be a victim of the societal and religious rhetoric and homophobia.

6. The ex-gay survivor may not have known that he had choices to walk away from what an outsider may call a “crazy” or “clearly impossible” goal of changing his sexuality. He didn’t know he had choices because even the word “choice” was a weapon.

7. The ex-gay survivor is a person who knows more about her own identity development that the average person because she has been placing it under a microscope since a very young age. Self-awareness and self-deception are sometimes intertwined and require patience from anyone who would seek to unravel it with her.

8. The ex-gay survivor may not hate the leaders involved in conversion therapy. On the contrary, we may have compassion for leaders or people we went to groups with because we learned so much about them… they were our friends. We may have complicated grief about losing them… even though it was toxic.

9. The ex-gay survivor is a person who spends most of her day learning how to be comfortable in her own skin. She is not “introverted” or “extroverted,” easily compartmentalized into words/phrases you can understand. She is a survivor of emotional/religious/psychological and sometimes physical trauma. She needs space to be.

10. The ex-gay survivor was born perfect… and is learning that… every day.

jung_choose_jpgI look forward to sharing the next evolution of my recovery, as the wife of an amazing woman, who has learned more about me in a day than anyone has ever known. In short, like any other survivor, any other HUMAN, what truly heals and changes us is the ability to find intimacy in a world that has often closed us down… and then… choose to become loved!

The ex-gay survivor is not any different than anyone who has been betrayed – genuine, consistent, and no-nonsense affection and companionship is the recipe for healing.

Much love, my dear readers, friends, and survivors… you are loved, just as you are.

Namaste, yo.

~~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose latest 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 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. 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.

Will You Gay Marry Me?

marry_loveFor months, my readers have been asking me to share my engagement story with the world so I decided that as our wedding day approaches in Virginia (hopefully legal, even), it was time I share the big gay details of what makes for a gay marriage story…

~~

Once upon a time, not too long ago, on a local dating site, I clicked “find matches,” and the rest is history. Well, actually, the rest is a long and complicated saga of strange encounters and near misses of U-Haul lesbian maneuvers. However, in the midst of those profile faces, was the woman who I knew I would want to gay marry someday…

Now, of course you may be wondering why I keep calling it “gay marry.” I mean, why not just call it “marriage?” I would, but I think it’s time we gays come clean about our whole intention behind this “equality” phase we seem to be in. All this talk about “equal rights” or “spousal benefits” is really just a smoke screen. We have wanted to gay marry since we were kids…

I’m personally looking forward to gay marrying my fiancee because I know what it is really about – making straight people uncomfortable. Since I was a young girl, all I ever wanted was a white picket fence and a few children I could use as leverage in the suburbs of America, where desperate housewives and sex-starved husbands wait for hot lesbian neighbors to move in and serve as a distraction from their unsatisfying lives. I’m finally living that dream out and I have to say – Virginia is close to lifting the ban on same-sex marriages and it couldn’t come at a better time! My dream of gay marrying is hopefully only a few court judges and lawyers away from becoming a reality.

What you probably didn’t know about gay marrying is that we actually propose that way too. When I got down on one gay knee, looked up passionately at my beautiful partner, and thought about our gay life together, I actually blurted out, “Gay!” before I even asked her to marry me. She started her reply, as instructed in the Gay Agenda Manual: “Rainbows, parades, and equal rights! Hell yeah, I will gay marry you.”

It was so romantic.

I never knew that getting gay married would lead to so many opportunities to make some straight people uncomfortable! I guess that’s why I was gay engaged before… it’s something I just knew I would eventually get right. Finding someone who will gay marry me because of all of our common gay interests, our gay affection, and our gay respect for one another – I’m so gay lucky! Gay marrying – the only thing I will probably enjoy more is gay parenting! It will be the perfect addendum to all that gay walking I do, gay eating, and of course, gay breathing.

So, I guess the story is out there now…

You know a bit more about our en-GAY-gement story. 😉

It’s really just another match made in gay heaven, my friends.

~~

Truth be told, my fiancee and I aim to write a book about our experiences and believe me… there is nothing about intimacy, commitment, sexuality, sensuality, spirituality, and companionship that really has to do with being gay. It’s time we all grow up – marriage is marriage. Love is love.

And satire is satire… it aims to amplify a more socially and emotionally intelligent perspective.

It’s not gay marriage.

It’s marriage.

And I want it… with her.

Get out of our way, Virginia. We promise we won’t gay grocery shop, gay dog walk, gay pump our gas, gay coffee drink, gay… insert fading gay voice…

Feel free to gay comment, gay share, and gay “like…”

~~

Gail Author PhotoGail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new 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 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.

Exodus International: 2 Years Later… Can Survivors Rest in Peace?

bxg_Losing_Religion* Re-sharing June 2015 as TWO years later… same sentiment from last year still holds true*

If you are familiar with my writing or my blog in general, you know that I am a survivor. If you’ve read Enlightened-ish, then you know that my status as “survivor” extends beyond surviving religious fundamentalism and damage from conversion therapy efforts which organizations like Exodus International lied to the public about for decades. I am also a survivor of… life’s darker components such as bullying and sexual abuse. I speak about these things openly not because it is comfortable or even preferred, but because I believe that there is entirely too much fear of authenticity in our cultures of hashtags and half-assed spirituality. Thus, this post, 2 year laters reflects not only on the 2-year anniversary of Exodus International’s closing, but on the collective survivor movement that most of humanity is in, as we all go through an injustice, inequity, abuse, grief, or obstacle that lands us in the awareness of what it takes to thrive in a world that is often not always fair.

When I participated in the Our America piece in 2013, I had a feeling it would transform my understanding of activism and abuse. Recruiting survivors to be taped in front of their accuser: That’s “good TV” and appears at first, to be a motion of activism, but was it abusive as well? A group of survivors is invited to witness a respected journalist (with a net worth of $8.5 million) as she tries to remain neutral in the face of a man claiming to be apologetic about making a living selling lies about homosexuality’s “cure” through prayer and specialized suppression techniques. Are you familiar with the piece which aired a year ago? Here you go: Watch it again. Is it activism? Or is it abuse?

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0SZC3Azsqw”%5D

I personally can’t watch it anymore. Why? Because even in her “review” of her time with Our America, Lisa Ling continued to exalt Alan as a man who she believes was truly trying to attempt something good out of his efforts to apologize – Efforts which led to inequality, genocide, depression, death, and a mental health crisis among gay people, in addition to a spiritually divisive movement within Christianity. (See her respect for him in minute 4:25 of the link) This is tragic when I know from more than one source that Alan pitched yet another publicity stunt to Lisa, after the Our America piece aired. He continued to attempt to latch on the teat of her innocent assumption that behind it all, he was a good guy trying to do good things…

I don’t believe there are any segments at CNN planned, for her to take him on a trip to Africa where she can cover the story of his apology to the people of Uganda, but like I said… I know from more than one source, this guy has an ego the size of Africa – Or a guilt complex equally as large. Either way, any publicity on his face, or those like him, remains to their benefit because it actually reinforces the belief that ex-gay therapy does work. As long as anyone is still asking if the world is flat, there will be yahoos who believe it. Thus, to truly debunk a myth, perhaps we have to let the ignorant move down their paths of baseless beliefs and hopefully they die off like the plague that they are to the collective awakening to science, spirituality and common good.

But we can’t do that, can we?

I couldn’t.

In January of this 2014, when asked to participate in a hearing in Virginia, where lawmakers were given the power to prevent abuses to minors, they tabled the decision… but I went, I testified and I thought I was doing the “activist” thing. Here is the link to that drama/trauma and the consequent interview that I participated in for SkyNews.

Do I look like an activist?” I ask myself.

Or do I look like I am being abused by a system of journalism that continues to cater to the aggressor, rather than the survivor?

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could stay involved with the survivor movement several times before in my experience… but after these incidents, I did step back a bit and begin to ask important questions about who “wins” when survivors speak up.

Ratings for the TV networks.

Listeners on the radio shows.

Blog hits for those who discuss us.

Opportunities to spread the lies, for those who actually still believe this stuff.

As I continued to evaluate my role, what I saw from all of this attention was how it perpetuated itself in online survivor communities. Suddenly I was being re-traumatized on a daily basis through my Facebook notifications and emails. Survivors have accused one another of not being “real” activists. Those who continue to teach/preach suppression accused fellow Christians of not being “real” Christians. Allies who are compassionate to the cause of equality are accused of not being “real” advocates. Trust levels were lowered and meanwhile, the actual story of surviving these injustices is lost in debate and stats like the following, ignored:

Q10Chart_Harm_Info

And so, for me… I have had to redefine what activism really is in my world. I can’t judge those who are making a career of chasing after evil and simultaneously trying to convince themselves it is not evil. I cannot discern the motives of anyone but me…

My motive has always been to make sure survivor stories are told… in all areas of our survival. In fact, that is why my career shift, towards early childhood education made so much sense in 2010… because if you truly want to stop victims from being victims, we have to empower our children not to become aggressors and to stand up for themselves when there are so many words and beliefs that can offend the soul.

An ounce of prevention, is all I can offer.

That is my activism now.

I look back at Christianity and how it is arguing with itself and it is sad to watch. I hear stories of progressives who don’t feel “progressive enough” and I see how the image of Jesus is crucified in blog posts and newsfeeds… I hear survivors who don’t feel “active enough” and pastors who can’t find churches that are “involved enough” in actual justice-seeking, mercy-leading communities and lives…

But I have to wonder about this meme that passed across my eyes not too long ago: exodus_year_later_1When I wrote my coming out memoir years ago, I recognize that there is “A Time to Yell…”

But what if there are activists who move within a very different world of advocacy?

What if we are quietly making a difference by creating positive change in the future, by investing in young lives today?

I’m not saying that the adult survivors don’t matter because, of course, I am one! We need community, compassion and environments where we can freely discuss our healing process. And the world needs justice-seekers, but doesn’t it also need peacemakers?

Do we need to continually share our stories in places that are designed to inflate egos or publicity?

Do we need to make ourselves vulnerable in order to increase ratings and if we do, how does that affect our own quality of life?

For me… I cannot engage in what former leaders are doing now, like it’s some VH-1 pop-up video of apologies, stats and E-True Hollywood banter. I’m over it.

Not over what they did and not over how much attention they still get for doing it…

But for me, being an activist now means being whole in my home, my heart, my health, and in my work.

My fiancee (2015 update: wife 😉 )  dreads this post because she knows that most of the time, when I post about this topic, the attention it brings literally causes me physical pain. But I have assured her, this “years later” post represents the highest intentions of doing what we all wish cult leaders and abusers would do after they have disbanded.

Rest. In. Peace.

Can survivors rest in peace too? Can they look at the places where hurtful words and beliefs left wounds and say, “I learned something and I am going to be okay?” Can they remember their trauma without shuddering? Can they learn to rebuild trust?

Can we… be at peace?

The answer is yes.

But the path to “yes” is different for each of us.

So today, on an anniversary of Exodus International’s shutting down, though it began a shit storm of rebuilding efforts by its leader and continues to be discussed in blog posts from people on both sides of the aisle, creating even deeper division within Christianity and families, I can say…

Happy Anniversary, Survivors.

To all survivors… for every year we make it to the next level, OUR next level, we can celebrate.

Let the media culture do what it needs to do to make a living… but let’s not contribute if it interferes with our own desires to make a life for ourselves.

You have survived much, my friends. I am honored to know your stories and be inspired by the tenacity of them… Thank you, for being… you.

Namaste.

~~

DSC_0821Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new 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 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.

 

Our Dead Dads… An Enlightened-ish Father’s Day Post

IMG_1786.jpg

Dad’s last sunset rainbow

The raw reality gets us to the point, doesn’t it? Death does that for the living.

I don’t like death, but I appreciate it for how it slaps us on the back of the head, especially when we are busy worrying about petty disagreements, financial distractions, or self-image obsessions that have nothing to do with “real” life or death. I’m not saying everything between the first breath and the last is all nonsense. All I’m saying is that once you’ve had an encounter with grief, you are more likely to be the kind of person whose healthy cynicism distances you from blind or lazy paths of “success.”

Anyway, this year is not my first Father’s Day without my Dad. I wrote about the first though, in Enlightened-ish. I have decided that the best way to remind myself that my dad still matters is to share that complicated, but important chapter from my grief memoir. After you read this chapter, you will understand why our dead dads matter. When we work through our grief, we we snap back into seeing what is important and learn how to free ourselves from burdens and imperfections. For some of us, our dead dads teach us more from the grave… and we miss them dearly not because they were perfect, but because grief is an awful, albeit powerful, teacher.

Allow me to add some context for this chapter – It touches on several themes that came up through the writing of “Enlightened-ish.” There are portions where I discuss what it felt like to leave the Christian Church *again* and also how I learned to let go of heart wounds that came through two relationships. This is the kind of stuff that I dealt with, alone, on my first Father’s Day without Dad – so many layers of grief, thus, so many layers of healing.

In short, healing begins with us, forgiving ourselves, for failing to accept the raw reality and the blunt self-awareness that can set us all free… namaste my friends. Happy Father’s Day, Dad… RIP.

~~

Chapter 12: The Freedom to Forgive and Forget

Enlightened-ishby Gail Dickert.

Feel free to share with permission if linked to the original post.

Copyright, Gail Dickert 2013.

“Father’s Day 2012 – the first when I did not have a phone call to make or a card to send.

I’m surrounded by some of the most thoughtful people that walk this great Earth yet, not one single friend reached out to ask how I was doing on that day.

No texts saying, “Hey, just in case you’re having a hard time, I’m thinking of you.”

No phone calls asking, “What are you doing to remember your dad today?”

No emails or notes suggesting, “The first one is always the hardest but you’re not alone.”

Nothing. Nada. No one.

Were it not for the short texts with my sisters, my mother and the friend I was visiting (who only contacted me because I was visiting her from out of town), I would have been all on my own to reflect, sob and search for solace.

            What I longed for most, aside from the freedom to call my dad, was a friend who would take note of his death.

~~

            When I took a summer getaway to Massachusetts before Father’s Day weekend, I discovered the Freedom to Forgive and Forget. Specifically, while sitting quietly in a secluded sandy beach at Cape Cod, I thought about my entire week away and all of the activities planned. I knew this retreat would be significant but I didn’t know exactly how the awakenings would present.

            It was hard to believe that this freedom would come from anger.

            Being angry at my friends is like punching flowers for not blooming upon my command. It’s hardly reasonable. My friends are brilliant. They consist of people who are globally recognized spiritual leaders and highly educated, mature, energetic, giving, creative, faithful people. I have the most enlightened-ish friends in the world.

            Yet, while I sat near the ocean, watching the waves predictably toss shells, rocks and sand towards my dry spot on this remote beach, I lamented, “This bunch collectively forgot to call me? C’mon Universe! What could I possibly learn from more isolation?”

            The Universe spared no expense on this freedom. There are three concepts to the Freedom to Forgive and Forget. I named them The Three Calls. (That’s three more than I received from my friends.) The Calls I did receive made it clearer for me to see through the fog of forgiveness and land at a place of acceptance and mental freedom. I didn’t know it was possible. Not only is it possible, but it’s also available to anyone with the ability to reframe the concept of impossible.

            There are people who teach that all things are possible, when we align ourselves with God. There are others who teach that all things are within reach, when we focus our thoughts on positive energy. On the contrary, we hear plenty of teaching about what is not possible. We can’t make someone love, we can’t force someone to change, and we can’t know what people are thinking.

           What I experienced on Father’s Day weekend, aside from the lack of calls from my tribe, was the opportunity to attend a mind-blowing, gravity-defying performance from the talented and innovative people of Cirque Du Soleil’s “Totem.” While on the beach, I remembered what I felt while watching their latest traveling revolutionary show.  (If you’ve never been to a Cirque Du Soleil show, I sum it up like this: Extraordinary acrobatic contortionists presenting their unique, artistic skills while defying gravity and reason before an audience whose jaws never leave the floor for 90 minutes.)

            Each show I’ve seen has been better than the one before. Totem was no exception.

            It was significant that the plot resembled my personal journey. The theme of Totem is to explore what happens as creation awakens to the beautiful spark that is “life.” It is deeply rooted in Native American traditions and viewing Mother Earth as a Turtle. (Turtle is my animal totem.) Beyond the theme, it was the tricks, stunts and interconnected costumes, music and physical tenacity of the entire event that allowed me to receive The Three Calls.

            As I watched the professionals deliver a breath-taking performance, I envisioned what my life would be like if I could use my mental faculties to free myself from the past the way they used their physical bodies to free themselves from the ordinary.

            Examining each performer’s acts of courage and bravery, I began the formation of this freedom. This all came to me during the show but it passed before I had the time and mental fortitude and capture it in writing. Little did I know that the same dedication and training it took for a man to balance on his head, on top of a 100-foot pole that rests on the bridge of another man’s nose, is the same mental capacity I can use to rewire my brain into a powerful tool for accessing the Freedom to Forgive and Forget.

~ The First Call: Recognize the Timing ~

            A single collision on the Cirque stage could send any one of the acrobats to the hospital. Bad timing could also injure an unsuspecting audience member too. Likewise, forgiveness is an issue of timing.

          “Forgive and forget” is good in theory. It is similar to the lofty and spontaneous ideas that Cirque producers have about their acrobats soaring through the air. As like the performance, the actual execution of forgiveness requires exact timing.

Forgiveness is often viewed as the climactic event around which all other spiritual decisions find their meaning but this is not the case. Forgiveness is simply one flip in the trapeze act, one step on the tightrope, or one ball to be juggled on the path of healing. “Trusting the timing” means moving through this part of our awakening with attention to detail.

            When the timing was right for forgiving my exes or the people in my Christian community, I had a lot to consider. At best, I could say their combined actions were unintentional. At worst, I could perceive that all involved needed to be held accountable.   (Enlightened-ish living has less to do with what others have done or not done and more to do with our own choices.)

            As I sat with a mental list of supposed transgressions, I had an image of the Cirque performers, spinning and twisting in their artistic displays of interdependence. I thought, “If one of them fell, would they immediately blame one another?” Using the Freedom to Imagine, I scripted a dialogue between me and the “performers” whose behavior had caused injury to my heart and soul.

            “You missed the catch!” I said to a trapeze partner at the church.

            “I know,” she sighed. “It’s just that you reminded me of someone else for a second and, well I don’t know what happened.”

            “Stay focused!” I barked at the knife thrower in the home.

            “I am sorry,” she replied. “I have so much on my mind, I haven’t slept in days and my head is throbbing.”

Suddenly the call was clear.

Bad timing cannot be underestimated.

            I did not recognize that I was rehearsing with people who were not fully present or able to perform. But with a broken arm and a knife in my foot, I had to take responsibility for my part in the collision.

            My spiritual community was not ready for a progressive person of faith. In fact, they were still recovering from being hurt by other people. No amount of artistic passion, friendship or prayer was going to hurry them along in their evolution.

            My ex wasn’t ready for a relationship. In fact, she had not yet recovered from abuses in her family or the disappointment of her divorce. No amount of nurture, love and prayer was going to hurry along her evolution.

I, however, was ready to fly and take calculated risks.

With a reframed awareness of timing, I could focus my efforts not on their behavior but my own.

I received the call to forgive myself for colliding with bad timing.

I called upon myself to forget what it felt like to force a situation to be what it is not ready to be.

~ The Second Call: Be the Source ~

           The twists and turns of a Cirque show require the performers to use their own body’s inertia and weight in order to create the movement that is desired. At some point, while the beauty is in the timing, the power is in propelling oneself.

            This is equally the case in awakening. Each twist is necessary but I was challenged to keep the momentum going entirely on my own. I set out on this freedom but also the entire book to complete an ethereal To Do list:

To give voice to the grief of my father’s death.

To tell the truth of how it felt to leave a spiritual home.

To imagine healing for my body.

To release myself from the karma Bright brought into my life.

To share the story of one man’s fateful day and my irreversible response.

That was one ambitious set of tasks!

Finding the momentum to proceed when I didn’t have a publisher or agent required a lot of stretching and expanding. Motivation would have to come from somewhere. I didn’t have a book advance and yet I maintained a full-time job while writing.

I had to become my own Source.

This Call came through loud and clear was when I realized that after all of my experiences of 2011-2012, what I was still hanging onto was the break-up with my partner of 4 years, in late 2009. (Before I reveal the details of this partnership, I need to finally give her a name. I will call her Beloved.)

The reason I am still in touch with Beloved is quite complicated and enough to make a therapist tilt their head in wonder. It isn’t necessarily a negative thing.

The Freedom to Forgive and Forget would not have been so powerful were it not for the day we debated about how she ended our engagement, leaving me with the deepest level of disappointment I had felt since…

Well, since my father had abandoned me as a child.

Granted, I had been left by a partner in 2006, but the level of trust that I had for Beloved was adult. This was “grown-up love.”

For better or worse love. (The kind of love I had hoped my father had for his family.)

As we had this awkward and heated discussion, I finally confessed to Beloved and myself that after almost three years, I was still angry that she walked away. I was angry not just because she left but because I never would have done that to her. She did not love me with the same for better or worse love with which I loved her.

She was “my beloved” and no other before woman had convinced me that they could love me with the same acceptance for our differences. When she proposed in 2007, I embraced every gesture like it was a marriage in that private, beautiful moment on a chilly but beautiful day in February.

While on my drive home, after this flashback of a fight, I imagined myself again as a Cirque performer. I thought of this wild task list and how I was editing the most bizarre book I’ve yet to write. I thought of the previous three years and how I hadn’t even come close to forgiving Beloved.

Suddenly the call was clear.

I am my own Source.

I was looking for her to be the source of the compassion I needed.

I was looking for her to be the source of the understanding I sought.

With a reframed awareness of Source, I could focus my efforts not on her behavior but my own.

            I received the call to forgive myself for seeking momentum outside of me.

            I called upon myself to forget what it felt like to be abandoned.

~ The Third Call: Breathe More, Think Less ~

            Sitting close to the stage at a Cirque show allows the audience to see deep into the process of each maneuver. As my friend of 20 years held her breath for each wide leap or fast spin, I looked closely at the rising and falling chests of each acrobat.  All performers were 100% focused on their breathing.

            I watched as two acrobats lifted the ends of a rubber balance beam upon which a smaller acrobat would soon be leaping. With intensity, they inhaled deeply, kneeling down and then exhaled forcefully as they stood up, and moved the beam from the ground to their shoulders. This image, of calculated and timed breathing resonated with my experience of grief.

            Grief has a way of making even good memories painful. This is the sad reality of the emotional unraveling that comes after the loss of a loved one. I noticed this one afternoon when I was talking with one of my teachers at the pre-school. She was sharing some of her thoughts about classroom management, nature-based learning and child-led activities and suddenly I started to remember that her first day at the school was the day my father died.

            Then my mind started to snowball.

September 16th.

The date of my father’s death happened to be the same as the birthday of an ex girlfriend. The woman responsible for so much of her pain and thus, our collective pain in the relationship, was born on the same day of the year that my father died. Death and birth are hardly distinguishable sometimes.

September 16th.

It hasn’t even been a year yet.

I was thinking so much, I couldn’t breathe!

After the teacher walked away, I went outside to catch my breath.

            Once again, grief had taken my breath away. One minute we were just chatting and the next, I was standing under the expansive arms of an oak tree hoping to calm myself down. I thought of the Cirque performers, lifting and shifting and doing it all, one breath at a time.  I longed to be as graceful in my awakening as they but anger within me began to boil. I thought of how death had been used to bring me to life. I resented it. Loss and grief had conspired against me since March 2011 and there I stood, angry at my father for dying, angry at an ex for lying, and angry at the “Universe” for not trying to make my life simpler.

Most of all, I was angry at myself… for crying.

Under that great oak, I knew that it was time to Forgive and Forget and make the ultimate acrobatic move regarding the many losses in my life.

It was time to stop thinking so much about the behavior of others. It was time to stop holding my breath, waiting for the ex to apologize for her lies or for Beloved to apologize for leaving me. I couldn’t be angry anymore at my friends for not calling or my father for not living. My mind was running the show.

            With a reframed awareness to breathe more and think less, I got the call to never forgive and forget anyone, ever again!

            I received the call to forgive myself for holding my breath for anyone or anything.

            I called upon myself to forget what it felt like to over-analyze that which cannot be explained.

~~

After my parents separated, my dad had a saying about how he was always thinking of his daughters.

“When the phone doesn’t ring, it’s me.”

This abstract thought wasn’t very comforting for a grade-schooler who hoped to hear her father’s voice on a daily basis. By high school, I started to understand that for some reason, he didn’t know how to be a non-custodial father. He arguably wasn’t the best father before the separation but it was my impression that at least he was present.

            It was that day on the beach at Cape Cod, when I sat with my silent phone and thought, “Dad, is that you?” that tears began to flow – the taste of these tears, so bitter and the anger, so tangible.

How dare he abandon his children in such fashion! How dare he not prove that he was thinking of me and behave in a manner that matched this so-called thought he had for my well-being!

            As I stared at my silent phone I debated between two options.

I could keep waiting for it to ring – berating my friends for being forgetful while I simultaneously remembered the wound of abandonment.

           I could turn it off –  forgetting what it felt like to wait for a call to forgive while I simultaneously remembered that I didn’t do anything wrong by having expectations that my father would be there for me.

            It was in that moment that this freedom turned me into a great contortionist!  I forgave myself for needing a call, turned off my phone and took a two hour nap on the beach. Surrounded by sacred stones and no other voice than the one inside of me, I was assured that this freedom was a call I could receive.

~~

Forgiving my friends for forgetting to call on Father’s Day was a natural act but forgiving me and forgetting what it’s like to live in impossible situations was an act of artistry of Cirque De Soleil proportions.

The Three Calls highlighted that I now have the capacity not to force a situation regardless of bad timing, not to seek external affirmation, and not over-analyze. With the Freedom to Forgive and Forget, I barely remember what it felt like to be bound.

All I can think about is what it feels like to be free!”

~~

To purchase Enlightened-ish and learn more about how grief can lead to spiritual awakening, click on the links within this post or here, to see reviews/commentary.

458190_254963957940988_1997742215_oGail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new 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 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.

5 Reasons to Lose Christianity… but Find Jesus

It was with great trepidation that I prepared this post, but now, as I share it, there is a sigh of relief in my soul…

After years of trying to identify as a “Gay Christian” or a “church-affirming” person of faith, it seems that the logical side of my brain has had deep conversations with the part of my soul that is tired of drama. Together, they have agreed that the most effective form of spiritual abuse prevention is to avoid triggers.

And Christianity triggers me at the core of who I am – an emotionally awakened, self-regulating, gay woman with an altruistic mind.

First, let me offer an important backdrop for this discussion before I offend most of you with my experience.

We’ve all seen it in social media and even personally witnessed it in some local congregations:

Christianity has been undergoing a very powerful re-branding effort.

At first, this seems to be a good idea, as it is not a faith that has been known for love or kindness to… well, anyone who isn’t white, male and straight. I truly want to get behind the “progressives” who talk about not being “that kind of Christian,” as they follow Jesus’ teachings and attempt to paint a nicer, softer version of this politicized religion on the stained canvas of spirituality.

However, as a Bible College Graduate and a woman who thinks about this topic more than any healthy person should, I recognize that the reason that there is so much conflict over Christianity is the simple fact that its “holy” book is laden with highly disturbing passages, analogies, stories and directives in the name of a God-figure.

Moreover, being progressive right now means big bucks. It means more blog hits, increased interviews, acolades of “bravery” from those who have been wounded by the church, and a false sense of pride in a “new” movement in the faith. (As if the United Church of Christ folk haven’t been teaching this progressive stuff long before it was made cool… I digress).

What we know about the Christian Church is that it is losing popularity… why? Because it should. It’s archaic, draped in a toxic history, shrouded in conflict… and basically the idea of finding community in our modern age is no longer tied to religious beliefs. More folks are happier to stitch and bitch at the local Panera, rather than tithe and survive at dogma-soaked congregational settings. Community, while always difficult to establish, is easier to access and try out, be it through Meet-Ups or the fact that, oh I dunno… we have cars and public transportation, so we don’t need the same local presence that we used to need in order to feel connected. We find out about common interests and we value them much more than our belief systems. Oh yeah, and this social media thing seems to do a good job of helping people feel more connected (perhaps at the expensive of emotional connection at times, but again, another post).

We also know that Christianity is losing popularity because it has this set of beliefs about LGBTQ people, women and overall concepts of social justice that don’t fly with the younger generations. (Did the Biblical writers bother to speak out against slavery? Nope. Sure didn’t. On the contrary, it kinda said, “That’s okay. Slavery happens.” Young people (and yes, some older folks too) do not want to be told what to do based on a book written by men in a time in history that is barely relevant to their own. More and more people are interesting in conversations, not sermons… and giving to the actual community, where it’s tangible and they feel the immediate effects, rather than investing in a pastor’s salary or a building fund. (Your local non-profit… where real church happens?)

However, what the Church is doing, in its well-designed re-branding effort is to make itself hip. Doing as the Romans, they have their loud music, powerpoint screens, even social justice projects, and giving illusions of “cool” when behind it all, the fact remains that there is an extrinsic authority that regulates the Church – the Bible.

Various interpretations and various texts to argue about – but in the end… it’s their holy book – Their script, their point of reference and their reason for the season of known as “Christian.”

But without the Bible, tell me this: Would there be a Christian Church?

I wager there would not be.

Without a book claiming to have authority…

Without a building claiming to be sacred…

Without a leader claiming to be anointed…

Where would the Church be?

It would be in the people.

And thus, we would possibly see that the teachings of Jesus would have some room to grow… once they are no longer confined by books, buildings and budgets. (Oh and egos, but that’s another thought altogether).

So this leads me to a very direct and poignant call to support a great exodus from Christianity. Hanging on to Jesus’ teachings may be the hard part and it is optional, in my opinion because some of his teachings are socially and emotionally under-developed. But without any further ado, I offer you something that will upset many of you. For others though, it may put the nail in the church coffin. You have been waiting to hear that it is safe to walk away. It is safe to lose Christianity… here are 5 reasons why…

1. Lose Christianity because… their holy book is profane.

Unlike most spiritual texts, Christianity’s “holy” book is grossly tied to violence, inequality, 1947957_278200805670461_1195406355_ncrimes against humanity, injustices towards women and minorities and frankly, a key plot twist that never sounds appealing – child sacrifice. The older I get, the more I realize that killing your son has got to be the least creative option for achieving justice. I would like to say, “Hey God, I hear you made hummingbirds, dinosaurs and the ocean, but when it came to retribution, your creativity leveled out at killing your kid? Epic creative fail.”

1782130_278199992337209_142745578_nOne of the most obscene Biblical passages regarding God’s need for justice/righteousness is when he turns two bears on a group of 42 bratty kids for making fun of one of his prophets, Elisha. Yeesh. I want God to get my back, but what’s with all the child-murder? I work with children… In fact, I work with about 42 every day and if they say mean things at times, it’s because they are kids. Doesn’t God know they are just testing out hurtful words vs. helpful words? A book that tells this story about that God should be banned, at least for anyone under the age of 18!

 

2. Lose Christianity because… you don’t need to be the house negro to make a point.

Ouch. Did she just say that? Actually, I’m anonymously quoting a friend who made that statement in regards to LGBTQ Christians. We can make our points about spirituality without subjecting ourselves to the system that keeps the white folk empowered (straight?) and the colored (gay?) scrubbing windows and able to come in from the rain at night. We all know that Jesus is not the same as “the Church.” Do you really think that if he was hanging out among any of this today, he would recognize these “churches” as what he meant when he said to gather and share? The Church is a system and in the end, the return on investment is low for its inhabitants, as its owner (pastors and politicians) reap either financially or psychologically. (Oh, there’s the ego conversation again…) There is a safer way to find spiritual community than surrendering your identity to the system.

3. Lose Christianity because… they can’t seem to reel in their rogue right-wing.

1602068_275828789240996_643552855_oOften times I hear progressives and conservatives isolate themselves from one another. “Fundies” are viewed as the enemy while I hear “liberals” are just as much a problem for those who believe in “Biblcally-based” things like marriages, families and 401k’s. For a religion that they are trying to brand as one of love, there is a schism deep within itself that is undeniable. If these two groups could figure themselves out, I may take the whole lot more seriously, but when you tune in and really listen to what’s going on, you can see this: One side of the coin despises the other side and claims they have different values. They are on the same piece of silver, no matter if you flip it 40 times and apparently Jesus isn’t even enough to bring them together! If the progressives are so grand, rather than recruiting the de-churched or those who happily walked away, why not take all that liberal “Jesus is love” stuff and lavish it on the brothers and sisters of the faith? In short, even Jesus said, “Get your backyard in order before taking over the neighborhood.” (Or some shit like that… a plank eye comes to mind, but thankfully, Bible College was a long time ago 😉 )

4. Lose Christianity because… their God is kind of unstable.

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Be it the Old Testament or New Testament, the holy book has a way of making the Creator sound like a petty father who can’t determine whether to smite or smother. It’s a simple fact that the religion is based on God “loving” the World that he SENT HIS SON TO DIE. Meanwhile, there are rules and regulations that differ based on interpretation and no routines are established for what “really” pleases God. (Do justly, walk humbly and seek mercy rings a bell but apparently even that is too vague).

AZ_Refuse_ServiceWorse yet, is when Christians ignore the absurd nature of the God’s supposed decrees. When I saw this sign to the left, I didn’t think, “Yeah, you tell ’em.” After I thought, “Don’t you know how to spell virgin?” I thought… “Why am I the only person who thinks that it’s ridiculous to make so many excuses for this strange holy book? It’s full of nonsense at times!

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Even more emotionally unpredictable and illogical are the belief systems themselves. For example, prayer has a complication in that it is entirely unreliable, yet it is a key ingredient of the faith. Exactly what part of the brain is working to monitor something so circular and illogical as prayer? If prayer works, does that mean that I have influence over God? If I do have influence, what does that say of this egomaniac God who only blesses those who know how to talk to him/her/it properly? As a person who teaches social and emotional intelligence, I have to say, this god could use some lessons on being assertive vs. aggressive, as well as learning the power of choice in order to maintain healthy relationships.

5. Lose Christianity because… you have the Freedom to Be and Leave.

I wrote about this in Enlightened-ish and am sharing an excerpt below because I think it’s time that the bigger picture of our core beliefs be considered. Sometimes we stay attached to Christianity because it’s our cultural reminder of family memories. Sometimes we stay out of obligation because “they aren’t all bad” or because we like the community and we’re too busy to find it elsewhere. Sometimes we stay because of actual convictions related to the cherry-picking of verses that matter to us. (Cherry, or cotton, I don’t know. Ouch). But in the end, beliefs are in fact chosen… and if Christianity is too violent, dramatic, unstable or just plain illogical for you… the Freedom to “Be” and Leave means you have options. I can’t promise that other religions are any better (as most are male-driven and seem to reflect a lack of social intelligence) but perhaps a fresh start will feel good after all of the lost friendships, church-hopping, blog-bantering and arguments in your faith journey.

From Enlightened-ish: A Grief Memoir about Spiritual Awakening:

“For as disillusioned as I felt about the church prior to my father’s death, I never intended to write about anything specific related to my time in a progressive church… Leaving the Christian Church became a key breakthrough for my spiritual awakening. 

“I cannot have my spiritual journey tied up in the success or failure of an organization. It sounds like high-risk behavior for a spiritual person to place all his or her eggs in the collection basket so for me, I cannot support a place where my investments are not diversified. The ROI for the Christian Church would make my spiritual portfolio plummet.

“Many members of the community had hoped I would stay connected, in spite of how this place contradicted my core beliefs (core beliefs discussed in depth, in Enlightened-ish). I didn’t trust any of the leaders to understand where I was coming from in separating from the community. The gossip and lack of emotional intelligence had become toxic. I cut ties altogether with some subgroups of the church. Once the standard operating procedure for conflict management became, ‘Efficiently shuffle things under the rug and psychoanalyze one another,’ I knew my time was up… I gave myself the freedom to “be” and “leave.”

In the end, religious leaders benefit from having followers because those followers surrender their most valuable resource: The ability to self-regulate. If the Bible, a pastor, or even God regulates you, you are not on a path of becoming a self-actualized person

And I know this, because I was once a person who falsely believed that surrendering “my” plan for “God’s plan” was a part of being a loyal, obedient and even wise follower of Christ.

This manifesto, coming from me, is pretty bizarre really – a woman who dedicated her life to Jesus at a crucial age, attended years of church camps, graduated with honors from Bible College, served several churches in youth and pastoral leadership positions and even continued to engage in “bridge-building” with people on the progressive side of this conflicting issue.

But it’s time.

Because the truth is… the Church is not an ally to itself, let alone an ally to the rest of the world. (Um, exactly what teaching is behind hate/discrimination bills? Church teaching, that’s what.) For every minute we spent trying to criticize it or rebuild it, we lose time that could be spent focusing on the person of Jesus, our relationships with our neighbors and the ability to self-regulate during conflict in order to reach peaceful, mindful communication.

So, what about finding Jesus? (Yikes, can it even be done? Well if you are still reading, let me sum this up already so we can all move on!)

Jesus was probably the most misunderstood and messed up figure to ever try to be a spiritual teacher and healer. Imagine that, without social media and the written word, I died today, but 70 years later, less than twelve of you tried to write up some thoughts about my life. Good grief, I hate to think of how you would portray me, even if you loved me 😉

And so it goes… we can go on a search for Jesus, if we feel that he matters… that may be valuable to some of us…

But what the Christian Church has shown us is that it is time to let it go of their business.

Because for many, it is nothing more of a reminder of a broken culture, a crucified faith and a burden to our collective ability to Love One Another. And if it weren’t for the Bible, we would probably be church and no one would have authority over how we live it out.

Walk gently through these explosive thoughts… and know that even if you stay involved with the organized church, this isn’t a judgment against you… but having been there, what I know is that a part of you wonders why you’re doing it. If you ever get tired of the drama, it is in fact, safe to walk away (even if just for a season).

No matter what, I wish us all the ability to breathe deeply as we seek to reconcile ourselves to… ourselves.

~~

This post goes out to three “influences” in my cyber communities. The first is a blog post from a Facebook friend. Please check this out and know that the content is well-prepared by a former Christian leader. It is honest, raw and will probably make you re-think your position on homosexuality and the Bible.

The second influence is a Facebook Page called, “Holy Shit.” I do not know the admins (yet), but I stumbled upon their page and found myself feeling at home, revived and encouraged by the satire, the honesty and the community. I know I can’t please ’em all, but as I lose readers with this post, I know there are ten-fold to gain. Knowing we are not alone – What a valuable influence for us all, no matter what we choose.

To the folks at CTofBM, this doesn’t mean I love you any less either. You remain supported in your chosen frontline duties of the Christianity Branding War… but if you ever fold up shop and call it quits, no judgment here 😉

~~

DSC_0821Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. She has appeared in FOX DC News 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 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. Her new book, Enlightened-ish became available April 25, 2013 and chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. 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.

 

Understanding the “Other”

Much of my professional and personal life revolves around supporting others (and myself) different_1through a discussion of social/emotional intelligence and spiritual awakening. The convergence of these topics has quickly become one of my greatest joys because it requires me to look at the “other” as a part of me. Rather than assuming someone else is less than or even better than, I consider that I am both autonomous and somehow an integration of all things…

Why yes, this does sound like a hippie way to live. (And no, I’m not old enough to receive official hippie status. Darn 😉 ).

However, it is more than hippie talk. I call it “homospirituality” (same-spirit attraction) and truly believe that there is a way for us to engage in community and conflict without infringing upon an individual’s personal journey. (For recent footage of my vulnerable and somewhat “revealing” ownership of this process, see this post. Man, that heart of mine belly-flopped, didn’t it? Doh). My utopia is a bit frustrating, since most of the time I feel like an alien. But, I recognize that this incessant and quite adolescent need to be “different” has drawn us to degrees of separation that burn away the ability to connect deeply, meaningfully and with a level of passion and commitment that inspires.

So today, I pose the following list of “others” that we think exist in our world… consider this list while embracing your individuality while seeking to understand the “other:”

The fatherless child doesn’t understand the other child whose Dad is always there.

The Dad who is always there doesn’t understand the other child who feels suffocated by his father’s constant presence.

The childless woman doesn’t understand the other woman who grieves the birth of a sick baby.

The mother of a sick baby doesn’t understand the other woman who grieves the inability to adopt.

The infertile man doesn’t understand the other dad who yells at his son on a camping trip.

The angry father doesn’t understand the other man because he personally never wanted a family.

The working family doesn’t understand the other family who spends more on vacations than it can afford because that is the only time they see one another.

The single income family who doesn’t understand the other family who spends more on childcare than it can afford because they trust the village to raise the child.

The married couple doesn’t understand the other person whose singleness leaves them lonely.

The single person doesn’t understand the other person whose marriage leaves them lonely.

The believer doesn’t understand the other believer who doesn’t seek a savior to feel whole.

The other believer doesn’t understand… the other believer… who doesn’t believe that there is the other…

Confused yet?

Good… because the other… understands what it feels like to be outsider.

The other… understands what it feels like to be misunderstood.

And that, is what we have in common.

We. Are. The other.

And thus… understanding the other begins, when we realize, there is no other.

Separation is illusion, yet the magic is in our unique story.

Go figure. 😉

Namaste.

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