“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.

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.

 

Through the Lens of Rest

DSC_0493Making quiet moments near a Volcano

A cyber sabbatical was probably the best decision I made in response to the events of 2013. It’s only been a few months, but when our cyber-worlds are full of lists, advice, stories and ongoing political bantering, it’s natural to wonder, “What would happen if there was one less blog to read for awhile?

What would happen if I didn’t post my every thought on Facebook?

What would happen if I just… disappeared from the cyber worlds until I felt better about the roller coast that was 2013?”

The world didn’t come to an end.

I didn’t implode into an artistic black hole where my words lost their power and my mind spiraled into oblivion.

No one accused me of being selfish or unconcerned with the altruism that drives my writing process.

On the contrary, I took care of my body, reinforced some boundaries about self-care, healed my heart, and lo and behold, got engaged! (No, I didn’t just meet her 😉 )

engagement_photo

That’s quite a return on investment for just a few months off from daily connecting to cyber worlds, isn’t it?

Well, it wasn’t just about what I choose to disconnect from, but what I opted to immerse myself in during this time. More specifically, because of some time away, I “saw” how the way I viewed the world was through lenses of activism, success, chaos, and healing. (Not bad lenses, from time to time, at all!)

Now, though, through the lens of rest, I look at the last few months and see how sometimes, what we think matters the most is a distraction from what we need more.

Through the lens of rest, I see how sometimes, what we need more is less

Less time with others.

Less information about what’s going on in the world.

Less awareness even, about how we can get involved with positive social change.

Less activism, less pouring out, less martyrdom and more…

More rest.

DSC_0354The lessons learned by time spent with Frogs

I share here within this piece, a few photos from my trip to Costa Rica, where I met my fiance’s mother and father and where I also feel like I met the mothers and fathers of Rest. In a sense, as I traveled these coastlines, forests and fields, I began to sense that I am a child again, not just of Charles and Irene, but of Warrior and Serenity (which is what some say their names mean).

During my time off, I became, in a sense, born again.

I am now… spawn of Rest. 😉

And I am a different person…

I can say that you will see me posting, blogging and engaging not like someone taking a blow torch to both ends of the candle and not like someone who makes a living on having opinions and experiences to share.

Rather, you will observe, at your own pace, at whatever level you are interested, a woman who is making a life…

Viewing life through the Lens of Rest…

bees

Clarity, details, pace and passion can all be viewed through these lenses.

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Peace, curiosity, and the gentle unfolding, all viewed through these lenses.

And beauty… not in spite of pain or because of pain, but co-existing with pain, will be as clear as a blue ocean in the Caribbean.

surfer_1Come by my page. Gaze. Explore. Breathe.

That is why I’m here.

And also then, sometimes… why I’m gone.

Namaste, my lovelies. I’ve missed you.

DSC_0821Hola from where coffee becomes fuel

P.S. During my sabbatical, I had over 40,000 hits on my website. So, I have to say… guess some of you were busy 😉

~~
Gail 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. In late 2013, Gail launched a small business designed to support others in writing their memoirs. Teaching Memoirs is currently reviewing new client applications. 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.

A Cyber-Sabbatical… The Freedom to Heal

When I first started For Gail So Loved the World, I was searching for community.

I was searching for my voice, as a writer, as a spiritual sojourner and as an activist.

I was searching… for healing through the written and spoken word.

I was actually, searching for Jesus, believe it or not.

When I look back over the 100+ posts and dozens of vlogs on YouTube, in the last two years, I realize that I have lived my life inside out.

Exposed.

Naked.

Open.

And I’ve somehow managed to remain respected as a professional in my “day job.” 😉

We get raw sometimes and have no place to take these feelings.

We get lost sometimes and have no idea where we can admit it.

We get real sometimes and feel like no one else is trying it.

My Facebook pages and these posts have been my external process, in hopes that the boundless love that I have for the world could bloom into a community of readers and folks who share light with one another.

And that community has certainly come into fruition in many ways!

Specifically, in the last year, my online community has shared endless memories with me and I have walked with them through many life changes as well.

For me, here are a few highlights of just 2013:

121014_003* I accepted a major promotion at my non-profit.

* I said goodbye to my fur baby, Dre, of 12 years.

* I traveled to LA in order to appear on Our America, face the leader of a deceptive organization by representing survivors of reparative therapy and Christian Fundamentalism.

* My family nursed my mom through a life-changing surgery.

* I published my second book, Enlightened-ish, which discusses the awakening that came through trauma in 2011-2012. (Only to later temporarily pull it from publication until AuthorSolutions could resolve their questionable approach regarding distribution and copyright.)

And now, in only the last few months, I’ve launched a new business in order to support self-published written and spoken word artists, prepared to see my mom relocate out of the area for the betterment of her health and walked a painful path with my body that is leading to at least one surgery…

We have shared… so much.

And the truth is that my vision for my life a few years ago was that I am nothing but a “conduit” for Light and Love. I trusted that no matter how much I was putting “out” there for the world, I would always have an endless supply of creativity, hope and encouragement for others.

Love would flow through me…

Light could move through me…

And as beautiful as this vision has been, I realize now…

I deserve to contain it sometimes, not simply facilitate it.

I am human and in all of my freedoms, what I rarely do is mindfully create some space for me to heal and just ‘be’ for more than a few days.

Now, the funny part is that even in taking a cyber-sabbatical, I will still be working on Teaching Memoirs and I will also be working hard at my non-profit, which fuels my soul in dozens of ways. I will be writing and connecting with anyone who comes across my path and yet, the silence on my blog (aside from events/happenings) will feel so strange. The silence on my Facebook page, even more foreign.

But, like I said in Enlightened-ish (which will be available again soon), self-love is a key ingredient in awakening. I have loved and cared for myself and my own life, but this year has brought me to an awareness of my limits.

And I believe now, that limitations teach us what truly matters.

I am more than a conduit for light and good things – I must also receive, contain and experience fully, in my own body and mind, the pleasure that comes from Love.

pain_body_1I don’t believe we create our dis-ease… but I do believe we must be response-able to it and not simply approach all illness as a mechanical/chemical and ultimately purely physical malfunction in an otherwise healthy existence. In short, I am not responsIBLE for the way my body has processed itself in light of years of good and “bad” stress, but I am response-ABLE to ensure that my limitations are honored.

It’s time I find the Freedom to Heal.

It’s interesting then, isn’t it, that when I first started blogging, I was in search of Jesus….

Why?

Why was I searching for a martyr? A savior-figure? A Healer?

Maybe what I was really searching for, was someone who could love, be loved and still… be human.

Perhaps that is the closet description of any savior figure who has any value at all…

1234469_666161776728688_80315677_nSo instead of Jesus, I found a thirty-something curly-haired, open-hearted activist/pre-school director who tread as gently as possible in the lives of those who engaged in her writings and poetry through an online forum until…

She looked at her cross and said, “Meh, that story is tired.”

And for a few months, she put down her burdens…

And picking up the pace on pleasure.

I will see you again, soon-ish. 😉

Until then, play Cups, listen to this… and know, you are loved, just as you are, without exception.

Namaste, yo

P.S. When you’re ready to Awaken Your Best-Teller and bring your lessons to the world… you can find me here. I’ll be taking a limited number of clients in 2014…

The “De-churched” – How to Talk to Us

Some people have found progressive communities of faith in which they feel comfortable, connected and cared for, while some of us have been so wounded by the leaders of organized Christianity, that we simply cannot and do not attend.

I’m a Bible College graduate. I was a youth minister for years and a pastor as well.

I know what they label us.

They call us the “de-churched.”

It’s always a hot topic really and the more a person surrenders their autonomy on their spiritual path, the more intense the discussion becomes! Those who have found comfort in remaining a part of Christianity or progressive faith communities celebrate that they feel comfortable in their congregations and they act as though they have stumbled upon a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

church_FireBut some of us have found that each effort to engage in Christianity ends with a slammed door, a crossed boundary or a judgmental word. I have found this each time I have attempted to rejoin Christianity and either I have really bad luck finding socially and emotionally intelligent Christian groups (or leaders) or I am just not destined to be a part of any organized Christian-based community. (Or a 3rd option I have yet to discover).

I share this not only because I think it’s hard for some of us to leave… but because what complicates our recovery is how some of those who “stay” treat those of us who left.

Sometimes they talk to us like we gave up.

Sometimes they try to recruit us to reform. (Does the analogy of a bad marriage help? Not everyone is called to stay with an abusive spouse and help them heal after every beating.)

Some of us leave because we don’t want to suffer anymore.

Some of us leave because it is well with our souls to do so.

Some of us have turned the cheek too many times and now have endless scars and can’t proceed with this form of faith.

Some of us still really dig Jesus, but have been shown over and over, that Christian does not = Christ-like.

It’s a sad reality, but it is our reality.

So, let us be.

Don’t tell us how awesome your church is – that’s your story.

Don’t tell us how to forgive – that’s your process.

Don’t tell us why it’s important to be in community – that’s your value.

Don’t tell us the church needs our unique voice – that’s your cause.

Tell us it doesn’t matter where we go Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights… because we are loved, just as we are and nothing about church membership or group-based spirituality will change that.

Tell us we matter.

And then walk with us…

walk_with_me_lhi_poster_1Like Jesus would.

And maybe that will lead some of us back to your churches…

Or maybe we will find that nature, the coffee shop, the movie theater and the community food bank feel more like church anyway…

So, in short, don’t talk to the de-churched…

Walk with the non-church goer.

Our stories are legitimate.

Our faith is real.

Our lives are whole.

We aren’t broken just because it doesn’t work for us to be in church.

And you aren’t whole because it works for you…

We become whole when we allow for differences, celebrate individuality and find cooperative ways to love mercy, do justly and walk… humbly.

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.

different_2

5 Reasons to Stop Whoring Out Apologies and Sexual Ethics

Okay, look… the whole intention of the words “I’m sorry” is not to make you feel better about your awful decisions, intentional deception or guilt complex. As a survivor of Christian Fundamentalism and the “ex-gay” lie, few things bother me more than when a former leader or current leader starts blabbering about how sorry they are that their chosen beliefs and denial of human rights are something about which they are “sorry.”

So when Andrew Marin says he is “sorry” and runs around in his underwear claiming he understands the gay community because he has binders full of gays (hires gays, like Romney hired women. Samsies, yo), I finally decided to post an open letter clarifying that not all of us are buying it because he also embodies an epic fail to take a public stand on civil liberties for the LGBTQ person of faith.

995755_10201457965989125_1791959249_n

When Alan Chambers, of the “former” Exodus International, issued an apology, which I was in the room to witness, I compared him to the Grace Monster – Bride of Franken-Christ even… and now, only a month later he is asking for donations, at Exodus’s site, in order to launch a “new and improved” version of social genocide. I guess they plan on making the Kool-Aid a little sweeter this time and are looking for a new recipe. It’s hard to say. I mean, if your belief is that the gay person is bad, wrong, less than, not equal, doing something that makes Jesus wag his finger at you… what are they offering – A dating platform so you can meet and marry an equally complicated headcase or sexually dysfunctional companion? Or are they offering a support group for celibate people who stand by some unnatural interpretation of scripture and ignore basic psychological wisdom about the harms of suppression or orientation change? (Harm? Yes. We talk about that at Beyond Ex Gay.)

See, I don’t really know what these guys are up to… in the end, I think it has to do with someone not being loved as child, but I’m not sure.

But now Randy Thomas, another leader, tosses his apology into the ring, from the comfort of his blog. (I mention the comfort of his blog because he was second in command when Alan issued his apology to a room full of survivors in April 2013. Not really sure why Randy wasn’t sorry a few months ago and couldn’t attend but is sorry now. Just sayin’). Randy, a celibate man who apparently “struggles with same-sex attraction” has stood in opposition to human rights and denied the psychological evidence of the harm of “ex-gay” therapy. Now, he issues his mea culpa and that puts this survivor over the edge.

What’s with all this whoring out of apologies and sexual ethics while asking for donations to an ambiguously gay cause? (You’re welcome for this video). [youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_7UnNDJ4bA”%5D

They have, ironically, made whores out of a lot of sacred things – celibacy, abstinence, grace and apologies, to name a few. These aren’t catch-phrases or political positions… Donating to organizations who make sure people get paid not to have sex is just as damaging as the alternative. I mean, is this some kind of reverse prostitution? I had to wonder this all along, when I met of one of the movement’s “fringe leaders,” Julie Rodgers, who currently states that she is celibate for Jesus, but at least speaks no half-truths about her process. When I asked if Alan would let her speak at an “Exodus-related” event if she was all cozied up with a cute lesbian, living her Jesus-light in same sex love, I felt he scoffed at the suggestion. It’s clear to me she has to be celibate to maintain ties to that area of the apologetic neighborhood. (Speaking of actual apologies, I recently took to that stage to apologize for wanting to put more than my words in her mouth or my beliefs in her heart. No, no, bad Gail. Don’t try to influence lesbians who reject their sexuality. Duh! Oh, by the way… “Why was my apology public?” you ask. Because when leaders actually own their processes, it supports others in doing the same. Vulnerability and changing our ways is what serves as proof of actual apology, ya dig? Keep reading… we will end on that…)

What these organizations/leaders have in common is how they have all cheapened these very sacred concepts! Admitting to wrong-doing or allowing the Sacred to present somehow, in our sexual/sensual relationships… how can one just blog about it but take no official action that supports full inclusion of the LGBTQ person of faith?

im sorry tshirt

In short, I don’t know ultimately, what their intentions are – I mean, getting paid not to have sex seems a little creepy. Apologizing but not standing up for equality seems suspect. It’s just… getting a little weird when the lack of social and emotional intelligence urges these “leaders” to co-create an environment where what is in the heart no longer matters, but what is on the blog is Gospel. (An irony made more apparent when the Christ spoke to the issues of the heart being more important than all else.)

In light of all these slutty-sorries, I figured I would offer 5 Reasons to Stop Whoring Out Apologies and Sexual Ethics, just in case we needed it spelled out.

real sorry1. It’s annoying. No really…  it is. Survivors and their actual allies are tired of it and when there are organizations that truly support the LGBTQ person of faith, who cares if you are sorry? (Believe Out Loud, to name one actual ally)

2. It’s inauthentic. Unless… you have a plan for making sure that your life doesn’t revolve around continuing to take advantage of those you hurt, then, we aren’t buying it.

3. It’s unbecoming. People are watching, ya know? Children… impressionable youth… and all you can exemplify is that you are a person of words but are afraid to stand for equality? Let us know how it feels to be on the wrong side of history, ok?

4. It’s triggering. If you actually cared about the people you harmed, you might realize that when we hear shallow apologies, it actually re-traumatizes some survivors. This goes for any apology. Feel free to apply it to real world matters, like friendships and family. (Or, you know, the ex that calls and says he’s sorry for being a jerk? No, that doesn’t make you feel better, does it? Ick, thanks for the reminder, now go away. Gross.)

5. It’s not your business. Truly. To be the change we want to see in the world, perhaps we should just be our truth, rather than blog it only, right? I mean… sexuality is a personal concern. Why should anyone make money following your example on something so personal? Moreover, why should you make a living on apologies you don’t even mean?

So, with having said all that, I’ll close by highlighting one apology that has mattered since 2007 and continues to… that of my friend and cohort in survivor advocacy, Michael Bussee.

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

The former leaders involved in the Beyond Ex Gay event have turned the tide for many survivors and the survivor movement thanks them… apology accepted.

The rest of these so-called apologies and projections about sexual ethic… and bridge-building… ?

Meh, call Michael Busse and ask him how it’s done. Otherwise… thanks, but no thanks.

P.S. While you were busy feasting on your piety, gnashing your guilty teeth for having taken a bite out of the gay community, or feeling good about a life of suppression and rigidity…

thinkprogress-homeless-lgbt

How does your sorry sound to them?

I don’t know… because they don’t read our blogs and when I meet them, the last thing I do is mention all this nonsense. Just sayin’. Maybe it’s time to get real…

~~

Gail Author PhotoGail is the author of Enlightened-ish and Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams. She is a hippie pre-school director and advocate, as well as spoken word artist and general badass. She also co-facilitates an online community for survivors of fundamentalist perspectives on homosexuality.

I am Strong. Scrunchie Strong.

Today, I made a striking confession that almost led to the worst thing that can happen in the first world problems of cyber community: Being un-friended on Facebook.

But I took a risk, knowing that it was more important to speak my truth, without shame or fear of judgment. I made it clear that I am my own person, I do not conform to status quo and I will not back down on my rights.

On July 19, 2013, at approximately 11 am, I let it be known that I would, in fact, wear a scrunchie today, without fear of being judged.

Cue gasp, right?

Women who wear scrunchies in public are some of the most demonized of all women. Carrie Bradshaw forever shamed us on the show Sex and the City and ever since that episode when Berger’s writing career unraveled because of her sharp and unnecessary judgment, CVS shoppers have been terrified to walk down the hair product aisle for fear that they would be mistakenly perceived as going in the direction of said scrunchies. Women have joined support groups, discussing their attraction to their former scrunchie-wearing days and some have reportedly shaved their heads in efforts to have no affiliation with hair, simply because of this cultural impression that scrunchies aren’t acceptable hair attire. (And don’t even get me started on the Levitical code regarding elastic and cotton combined.)

It’s been a tough decade, for scrunchie-wearers.

But today, I came out loud and proud about my use of said hair accessories and in honor of scrunchies and how they have served me, I’ve decided to share more about my scrunchie-affection and actual, live photos that show the more intimate details of my scrunchie and me. (Consider this a warning, as some photos will challenge your currently held beliefs about public displays of scrunchie-ness.)

In truth, my scrunchies have outlived even some of my partners and been there with me in times when not much else would hold back my hair. I mean, think about it ladies. Washing the dog? Scrunchie is there. Changing a diaper? Scrunchie in place. On a morning walk? Don’t forget the scrunchie. Random sex-capade at 8 pm after an excitable Happy Hour? Did he mind your scrunchie then? No, he did not.

Scrunchie_Choices

All those things aside, this evening, as I went on my nightly walk, which is designed to keep my back loose, as I work through some complicated pain issues, I started to consider my many companions on my walks. My thoughts… my concerns… my spiritual guides… my goddesses… my angels… my dreams… the pain… and… my scrunchie. As you can see from the first photo, my scrunchie was present when I made choices on my path – A loyal companion, no matter what road I go down.

Scrunchie_Shade

Later, my scrunchie and I were spotted by the police, who almost cited me for inappropriate scrunchie usage with a hat, but I told him I am a Buckeye fan and we exchanged the O-H-I-O chant and he let me go. After he left, I hid in the shade with my scrunchie, contemplating the deeper meaning of shade, comfort and how nutty Ohio football fans can be even in the off-season.

Scrunchie_FlowersIt wasn’t long before I thought, “A Facebook status isn’t enough. It’s time I write about this relationship that I have with my scrunchie.” So I started thinking of all the little places that we go together. Here is a photo of us stopping to smell the flowers. Go ahead, try and tell me the last time you and an actual person stopped to do that? It hasn’t happened, has it? Ahh, but a scrunchie takes risks. A scrunchie makes time for you, doesn’t it? A scrunchie doesn’t rush you because it prefers your company and can stay in the moment with you.

Later, we came upon a weeping willow tree and I thought about a childhood friend myScruncie_Willow sister and I used to visit, whose grandmother had a large weeping willow in her yard. I thought of Mrs. K and how high up her grandchildren climbed. Even my sister made her way to the thinnest branches to sit while I stayed near the bottom, no more than 4 feet off the ground, out of fear. I told my scrunchie my memories of that tree and my scrunchie listened. No reaction, no accusations – just listened. Good scrunchie.

Scrunchie_Simplicity

Finally, on my way home. I stopped and considered the simplicity of my walking exercises, the last few months. The pain seems to lessen, if I keep to a regular routine and forego things like sit-down meals, sitting down to write, or basically anything that involves the seated position. It’s a true inconvenience and while my tolerance for pain is apparently quite high, I shirked the suggestion of an epidural and until a better diagnosis is reached, I walk… I have a routine that helps, even when it hurts. Furthermore, my many companions have no opinions about my treatment plan. In fact, one companion told me today, “You are strong. Scrunchie strong.”

There’s a passage in the Bible about being “jars of clay,” and I remember that, upon further contextual analysis (Bible College Degree coming back to haunt me), the reason the “jars of clay” analogy was used was because clay jars were something usual… something ordinary. The writer wanted to send the message that something “typical” or otherwise “commonplace” could be the very container that manifests a more powerful light than anything that had been seen before. I liken it now, to a scrunchie. We, our lives, our sacred journey and yes, even our scrunchies, are “treasures” that exist to show the surpassing, expansive and inspiring Love and Light that exists for us all. (That, my friends is 2 Corinthians 4:7 done hippie Gail-style).

Scrunchie_EstateAnd so, as I gazed upon the Mount Vernon estate, which is the land of my cousin, George Washington, I sat with a mantra, “I am strong. Scrunchie strong.” May you pull it into your daily lives, so that with every ordinary thing you do, you become connected to and more aware of the light that is moving through you…

Through the pain, through the doubt, through the interpretations and through all the judgments that others have about who we are…

Be strong. Scrunchie Strong.

These are my words. Namaste, yo.

P.S. Seriously… stop judging people for how they hold up their hair. I mean… can’t you judge them on their sexuality or something else instead? 😉 By the way, my new pre-requisite for dating. Must love dogs… and scrunchies.

~~

Gail is the author of Enlightened-ish and Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams. She is a hippie pre-school director and advocate, as well as spoken word artist and general badass. She also co-facilitates an online community for survivors of fundamentalist perspectives on homosexuality.

Ex-Gay Survivor Translates Exodus Cult Speak

Many of you know that Exodus International continues to operate an annual conferencelight_trees and while the attendance has dwindled over the last few years, as a survivor of these shaming, inaccurate and harmful messages, I often feel the need to speak the truth about what goes on behind closed doors. A few of my colleagues at Beyond Ex Gay and other survivors in various online communities also find themselves reading about conferences, blogs from current leaders and other affiliates and smacking their heads. We know from experience that what they are selling is still a storyline that involves suppressing sexual behaviors in order to “please” a heterosexually-obsessed god-figure and manipulative church leadership. In an effort to debunk the myth that these conferences/teachings offer the LGBTQ person a healthy or safe atmosphere for coming to terms with sexuality and faith, I offer this year’s Exodus Conference listing along with a translation, from a survivor’s perspective.

This note goes out to all survivors, of any fundamentalist teaching that draws you to divorce yourself from the body and creates inequities in your faith experience and communities. Namaste, my friends. Let the light shine…

2013 Workshop Listings:

“From Rejected to Accepted” – Survivor Translation: Co-dependency is cooler than you think. Try it. We will make sure you like it.

“Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places” – Survivor Translation: Your broken heart is a direct result of being gay, duh.

“If We Had to Do it Over” – Survivor Translation: Sugar-coating 101: How Exodus Got Away with Lies about Change Orientation

“The Power in the Telling” – Survivor Translation: You Can’t Pray Away the Gay, but you too can talk about it endlessly because misery and company are the match we believe is made in heaven.

“Pursuing Sexual Purity” – Survivor Translation: Have sex only if it is work. Natural sexuality isn’t pure. Ever. Sorry.

“Let’s Talk: Masculinity” – Survivor Translation: Gurl, you look great in those pants. I mean, dude, nice top. I mean… Be a Breadwinner. Done and Done.

“The Facts vs The Truth” – Survivor Translation: No, not facts about sexuality, gender or psychologically-sound facts. That’s just the Gay Agenda. We will give you the truth according to the Gospel of Exodus. Please avoid all psychological resources prior to this workshop. The only pre-reads required are books by our Savior, Paul the Apostle.

“Let’s Talk: Femininity” – Survivor Translation: Dude, let’s grab a beer. I mean, brother, I think you’re cute… I mean… I’ll have your babies. Done and Done.

“The Bible, Gender, and Personal Identity” – Survivor Translation: @$(@)&%)&!!!

“A Well- Connected Woman” – Survivor Translation: ??? lol

“Why I Don’t Give Up” – Survivor Translation: Those activists are a real pain. Don’t be a quitter. It’s bad for business

“Celibacy and The Christian Life” – Survivor Translation: Safe sex means making out with Jesus. Got it? Unless you’re male. You should make out with Mother Mary. Wait a minute…

“Making Your Marriage Work” – Survivor Translation: Five reasons to have sex even when it doesn’t feel good.

“What I Wished My Parents Would Have Done For Me” – Survivor Translation: We still blame parents. Sorry if that totally isolates you from them but hey, more time for cult activity and isolation. Perfect.

“Help…Someone In My Church is Gay” – Survivor Translation: I have a crush on a girl in the pew next to me and she smells good. HELP! 

“So, What’s Our Story” – Survivor Translation: After almost four decades of these lies, we still don’t really know and we don’t expect you to know either. Thanks for paying the conference fee. ‘Preciate it.

“Life After Your Son or Daughter Says “I’m Gay”” – Survivor Translation: Life after death? Yes that’s what it feels like as a child tells you they are gay. So sorry they did this to you after everything you did for them. Try not to mention hell though cuz that will throw them on to your scent. P.S. They may go to heaven, but here’s 3 Steps to Making their Life Hell on Earth.

“How Should the Church Respond?: A Christ-like Response” – Survivor Translation: Because the Golden Rule is too complicated.

“Improving the Relationship with Your Gay Child” – Survivor Translation: !@$(@%!
Alternate Translation: We can’t reconcile ourselves to our own sexual orientation and relationships with our friends and families but we are an excellent source for educating you on how to do it. Go figure.

“Discovering Our True Identity” – Survivor Translation: Cuz those gay couples out there are totally not real. False identities. It’s like they don’t even exist. In fact, they aren’t happy either. Don’t fall for it.

~~

 I dedicate this post also, to Michael Bussee, an original founder of Exodus International, whose commitment to seeing it disbanded inspires many survivors on their healing journey. In response to this current list of workshop titles, Michael said, “his could easily have been a list of workshops from 10 or 20 years ago.  The same focus on homosexuality as some sort of addiction to overcome, a “false identity” to be denied… And Exodus claims to be changing?”

Looks like same ingredients, different label, if you ask this survivor.

Cheers, Exodus. Survivors raise their glasses to what we expect will be your last conference. Your reign of social genocide ends in 2013.

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IM0CtA2OFI”%5D

Homospiritual Meditation for the Week: Nature’s Mirror

I’m sharing the weekly meditation early. Also I have an announcement about a local book signing appearance at the bottom of the post. Good times, yo 🙂

“What if I told you that you are perfect, like the sunrise?
What if I told you that you are stable, like the oak tree?
What if I told you that you are angry, like lightning?
What if I told you that you are powerful, like thunder?
What if I told you that you are nourishing, like rain?
What if I told you that you are… able to know these things without my telling you?
That is the self-guided journey.

That is the call of our souls.

Nature mirrors for us what to accept about ourselves.

Look around.

You. Are. Creation.

Beautiful.”

~ Gail Dickert, author, activist and reluctant musician

For more about my recent release, Enlightened-ish, please follow the links to read reviews and leave your own comment if you’ve read it and are ready to share your experience.

Namaste, my friends.

~~

Are you in the DC Area? Gail will host her release party/book signing at Grounded Coffee on June 1st, starting at 2 pm. Meet Gail, purchase signed copies, enjoy a fabulous local coffee shop. (Note: This is my only local appearance until the Fall.) Facebook event here. Also, stay tuned to Our America with Lisa Ling in June, for more about Gail’s journey and the journey of others surviving fundamentalist religion.

Gail Author Photo