God Is Great And Annie Is Awesome

(Disclaimer: Permission has been obtained to publish this article from all parties involved. All contents herein remain under the ownership of the original writer.)

Vanessa and her daughter, Annie

Vanessa and her daughter, Annie

God Is Great and Annie Is Awesome

by Vanessa, her mom

 

Born this way? Yes, I’m sure, sure, sure she was born this way. I knew it, felt it, sensed it when they put her in my arms in the hospital. I knew she was different. Of course, different is a relative term. I mean she was different than me– a controlled, sensible, follow-the-rules-at-all-costs and do what “they” expect type of human. She was born a freedom-seeking, do the opposite of what “they” expect kind of person. But not necessarily to ruffle feathers– simply because the opposite of the norm expresses exactly what’s inside of her.

annie 4

Annie- born a freedom-seeking, opposite of what “they” expect kinda girl!

Ya, ya, we’re all special, but she makes ‘special’ seem so… ordinary. Half a dozen times in her 10 years, I have heard the same comment from grown women: “I want to be Annie when I grow up!” I suspect it’s her style, her views on life, her desire and ability to connect with people of every age. Her perceptiveness, her charm, her humor, her confidence are what make her an unassuming role model. Words are hard to find to fully capture the richness of character she has been granted.

She has changed me deeply with the wide and explosive array of color she has brought into my basic, black and white life. All the colors of Manic Panic in her hair, brightest of 1985 fluorescents in her outfits, every color of the palette shining through from her electric energy… now, folded into the mix of color and light: the rainbow of course, the gay pride rainbow!

 

Annie's Electric Energy!

Annie’s Electric Energy!

In May, she came out. I asked. She told. She cried. I hugged her with the tightest grip of love and joy and utter relief that she would not have to be the only one to know anymore, not for one more minute. Not for one more lonely, scared, shameful minute would she be alone in this. I eschewed her terror about going to Hell and what she thought the Bible said about homosexuality. “The BIBLE??!! Oh honey, it’s all about love and our unconditional, loving, huge God made you exactly the way you are, in all the ways that you are. He loves you desperately and remember, sweetie, fear and shame are NOT from God. God’s on our side, as always.”

 “God is on our side, as always.”

One of my first motherly responses was to assume a protective, defensive posture against the world at large. I thought, as people learn about Annie’s sexuality, we will simply and surgically separate the men from the mice, no second chances. You’re in the “Annie Is Awesome Club” or you’re dead to us. Then, after a day of that toxic mind set, I started to see the similarity of that line of thought with that which fosters homophobia and intolerance. Back to that ‘love’ thing. I will choose love and acceptance of our community, wherever each individual stands on the issue, I decided. And now I stand firm on that. As much as anyone’s “pray the gay away” tactics won’t be necessary, I will not need to pray in a condescending manner for those people who don’t turn in their “Annie Is Awesome” membership form for immediate approval.

PFLAG meetings: check! Gay Pride Parade: check! LGBT Gay Pride Exhibit: check! Even a Rainbow-themed Christian Fish Bumper Sticker!

LOVE ONE ANOTHER (photo credit: newegg.com)

LOVE ONE ANOTHER
(photo credit: newegg.com)

As we identify with and choose our Christian faith as a way to get through and beyond this life on earth, I recently thought about the rainbow that God created as a sign to His people. It says in Genesis, “Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” I know it’s about God not sending another flood, but now, when I read that and reflect, all I can dwell on is that phrase “creatures of every kind.” Yes!!! An everlasting covenant between God and EVERY KIND OF CREATURE, EVERY KIND OF PERSON, EVERY KIND OF GIRL, EVERY KIND OF BOY. Lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, questioning and everything in between. EVERY!

Thank you, PFLAG CDA, for providing us a community of love, acceptance, pride and support. Right now, it appears the world is set up for people coming out in their teens or later, not when they’re 10! In all my research, in Arizona and in Idaho, only PFLAG has been able and equipped to welcome the youngest of the gays. Our whole family thanks you.

 

Our whole family thanks you!!

Our whole family thanks you!!

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Straight 4 Equality

Straight For Equality is a subset of PFLAG National which focuses specifically on what straight allies who may not necessarily have any other ties to the LGBT community can do. If you’re wondering what you can do to help, maybe give their website a visit. There is an online pledge you can sign to promise to stand up against bullies and to educate others on proper terminology. You can check out the “Ally Spectrum” or get some training. We over at PFLAG Coeur d’Alene are participating in some online activism– putting a face on those who are allies and those who need allies. GAY RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS.

Here is the start:

Christine Juli Mandy MoePatrick

This project will be ongoing throughout June with a focus after July’s meeting, which deals specifically with the ideas of allyship.

Marriage Equality Moves Forward

In the last week, we have seen monumental progress for marriage equality in our country. We have celebrated (and backtracked) in Idaho; we have cheered wholeheartedly for Oregon. And, just today, we welcomed Pennsylvania to the list of states that will officially recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. Congrats to all!

Since the United States Supreme Court struck down a critical section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June of last year, Pennsylvania’s Judge Jones makes the eleventh federal judge to nullify a state statute restricting gay marriage as unconstitutional.  In eighteen states, same-sex couples now have the freedom to marry.

(except imagine Pennsylvania is a beautiful dark green)

(except imagine Pennsylvania is a beautiful dark green)

If we keep going at this rate, the other half of the country will be on board by the end of the summer! Only four states have bans that are not currently being challenged in court.

History: Made

Tonight, we received amazing news: an Idaho judge has struck down the 2006 amendment to the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage. This means that, as early as Friday, clerks will begin issuing marriage licenses to every.damn.couple that walks in the door.

Incredible.

Momentous.

Unbelievable.

Read all about it here or here.

Send Judge Candy Dale a “thank you” card here.

idaho freedom to marryI’m so overwhelmed right now, I can barely form a coherent thought about this. I just want to hug everyone I see and hope balloons will start falling from the sky!!

Idaho, we did it!!!

No Rational Reason to Ban Same-Sex Marriage

On Friday, an Arkansas judge struck down the state’s 2004 state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage stating “This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality. The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent.” This makes Arkansas the 18th state in the Union to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay people. Judge Piazza of Pulaski County in Arkansas cited the 1967 decision to repeal laws which up until that point prohibited interracial marriage in his decision.

interracial marriage protestArkansas has become the first state in the Bible Belt to legalize marriage equality, which is huge.

As many of you already know, we are awaiting news on oral arguments heard on May 5th by the Federal Court in Idaho to decide the constitutionality of our own state’s 2006 amendment.

Learn more about marriage equality battles by state here.

Come on, Idaho!!

rainbow idaho

 

Mother’s Perspectives: Part Two

Once again, thank you to the speakers who, on Tuesday, decided to share with us their experiences. From what I could tell based on the conversation that followed, there was a great deal of takeaway from these two families’ stories.

Part Two: Verna and Josh

“I taught Josh when we was younger, and he’s teaching me now.”

Josh is twenty years old, and he came out to his mother, Verna, two years ago. Verna, having been brought up in the same generation as Susan, faced the same situation in a very different time.

She said she had an idea about Josh’s sexuality when he was as young as three. “If any one of my four boys is gay, it’s Joshua,” she retells this thought jokingly.

But she opened her story, not with the distress of Josh’s coming out to her, but with the unconditional love she felt then and still feels now for him and all of her children. She strives to teach them to be strong, knowing they (especially her second son) will face adversity. She taught them to take others’ opinions with a grain of salt. It is within your own self and the people that love you that you should find comfort.

One day, Josh called his mom, and she could tell he was nervous. She could tell he had something big to tell her, and it was tough for him.

“Mom, I’m gay.”

“And…? I know Josh; I’ve always known.”

And the simplicity of realizing that maybe his identity was not as secretive as he had thought has forged an even stronger bond between mother and son. She never pushed him; she never even asked him. It was his story to tell. When asked a direct question, Verna’s advice, based upon her own experience was: wait for them to tell you. Even if you have an idea and you want to test the waters, be vague, generic and open-ended. Don’t make them feel pressured to tell something they’re not ready to tell yet. They’ve got to come to terms with it themselves before they can trust others.

For a time, after that confirming conversation, Verna felt legitimate fear for her child. As a Catholic, she honestly believed that, as a gay man, Josh could not go to heaven. Reconciling her feelings for her son and the knowledge that this is something with which he was born, with the belief system of the Catholic church has been a struggle. From the beginning, Verna told Josh to never “lose his faith in God.”

Josh is adamant that he owes all his success to the encouragement from his mother. As of next weekend, Joshua will be a college graduate, having served on the North Idaho College student senate body (ASNIC), as President for the Gender and Sexuality Alliance and as Treasurer for the NIC Signers’ Club.

Verna said of Josh’s accomplishments, “I couldn’t be more proud– not because he’s gay, but because he’s my son.”

josh and verna

Josh and his mom, Verna

josh swan 2

This award was presented to the North Idaho College Footsteps Committee by the Task Force On Human Relations for their work in diversity and human rights.

josh swan

Josh (center) and his siblings

May is National Foster Care Month!

Did you know that there are 400,000 children currently in the United States foster care system, 100,000 of whom still need to find adoptive homes? According to data compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) more children more gay couples are raising families than ever before, through adoption, surrogacy, and artificial insemination. However, same-sex couples still face discriminatory legal barriers in the effort to bring up children.

allies for adoption

An article in the New York Times in June 2011 posits that a large portion of the legal hurdles same-sex couples face when raising children stems from the fact that marriage is prohibited to these couples in two-thirds of the nation’s states. Only two states (Utah and Mississippi) explicitly bar gay and lesbian couples from adopting. But the inability to legally marry leaves many challenges to both parents having official guardianship of their adopted child. Read the full article here.

PFLAG is in full support of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which strives to nullify the challenges same-sex persons face in the quest for adoption based upon marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

You can help too!

Learn more about what ECDF strives to do here. The, head over the the PFLAG National Action Center to learn about contacting your legislators to register your support for the bill.

family is family

 

 

 

Support PFLAG National Programs

A couple of exciting (and easy!) ways to support our parent organization are set for the fundraising extravaganza that will be May 2014.

giveOut-logoIn addition to our own rummage sale, for which we are still taking donations, and whatever support we can lend Spokane PFLAG on National Give OUT Day (our status is not ready this year for it), everyone can chip in to help the national nonprofit.

care with prideFirst, for the third year running, the Johnson and Johnson Company is partnering with PFLAG’s Safe Schools Program to raise money to go toward anti-bullying strategies. Johnson and Johnson understands the unique struggles faced by LGBT students, and with their Care With Pride initiative, they can help to make a difference. Watch an informative and heartwarming video about the way the world could be here and then be sure to text “HERO” to 41010 to send $5 to Care With Pride. Johnson and Johnson will match every dollar for up to $150,000 to PFLAG’s LGBT youth programs. That’s $300,000 to help make schools a safe place for all students. Just send the text and $5 will be added to you cell phone bill– easy peasy.

 

this day in juneSecond, there is an amazing new book that is available now for preorder on Amazon. It’s called “This Day in June”. Here is the Amazon.com description:

This Day in June is an uplifting and upbeat book that shares the experience of attending an LGBT Pride festival and a day when everyone is united. It includes back matter that informs the reader of various aspects of LGBT history and culture.

Inspired by founder, Jeanne Manford’s, bravery and hoping to instill in the next generation feelings of love and solidarity, this book is written for parents and children to enjoy and learn together. A copy of the book costs $8-11, depending on whether you want hard or soft copy and a portion of the proceeds will benefit PFLAG National when you order through Smile, Amazon’s charity giving program (as soon as we have the necessary documentation, we’ll have one of these too, so every time you order though Amazon, you    can support your local PFLAG chapter). Simply select PFLAG National as your chosen organization when you order.

amazon smile

So, that’s it! $15 later and you helped raise nearly half-a-million dollars for safe schools as well as provided your family with a valuable tool for educating our youngest allies.

Respect for Marriage Coalition – New Ad

The Respect for Marriage Coalition is a collaborative effort by over 100 special interest groups (the primary focus of which may or may not be LGBT issues) to end the Defense Against Marriage Act (DOMA). PFLAG National is one of them.

The Respect for Marriage Coalition is a partnership of more than 100 civil rights, faith, health, labor, business, legal, LGBT, student, and women’s organizations working together to end the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and grow support for the freedom to marry.

This organization is responsible, in part, for introducing the Respect for Marriage Act to the United States Congress in June of last year (apparently just hours after Section 3 of DOMA was overturned by the Supreme Court). The bill would effectively nullify the discriminatory language of the 16-year-old statute and recognize the rights of all married couples (same-sex or otherwise) on a federal level regardless of where that marriage was officiated.

The Respect for Marriage Coalition is gaining steam since last June and just release an ad which features the opinions of three prominent Republican figures, former First Lady, Laura Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney (who has a gay daughter, in case you didn’t know) and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

To see what you can do for the Respect for Marriage Coalition, go here.

 

Unitarian Universalists of North Idaho

Q: What do you get when you cross a Jehovah’s Witness with a Unitarian Universalist?
A: Someone who knocks on your door and asks you what YOU believe.

Have you heard of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations? For short, and because meetings are generally on Sunday, we call it “church”. But it’s not like any church you’ve ever been to.

uua logoThe Unitarians promote and live their lives by seven pretty basic principles:

1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person

2. Justice, equality and compassion in all human relations

3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to grow spiritually

4. A free (as in uninhibited) and responsible search for truth and meaning

5. The right of conscious and the democratic process, both in the congregations and society at large

6. The goal of the world community with peace, liberty and justice for all

7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

Sounds great, right? No dogma or doctrine. Just guidelines for living life well and respecting the lives you encounter along the way. A church that encourages the concept of “life before death”. Learn as much as you want by visiting their website.

coexist2The local chapter of the Unitarian Universalists has been serving the Coeur d’Alene area with meetings most Sundays, book discussions, dances and socials. I’ve attended a handful of times over the last year because, personally, I love the community feeling of a church without Jesus Christ being shoved down my (and my kids’) throat. Just one woman’s opinion.

If you are interested in learning more about the North Idaho Unitarian Universalists, please consider attending a mixer being hosted by one of the congregations members or sitting in on a service. The meetings are held at the Harding Family Center at 411 N. 15th St in Coeur d’Alene from 10:30 to 11:30AM. Childcare is provided for free most Sundays, and this is one of the most welcoming bunches of people I have ever met!  uuni bbq invite 2 jpeg