When my family first moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., from Boston, Mass., in the 1980s, I distinctly remember attending worship at Church of Reconciliation (a Presbyterian Church, USA), in which there was an “offering of letters.”
I am bewildered already by the blizzard of emails I receive daily about the upcoming vote (May 8, 2012) on a constitutional amendment in North Carolina that would further restrict and solidify what it means to be married in this state. I’ve been talking about the vote since both houses of the General Assembly voted upon its passage in September 2011.
College changes a person. I was an undergraduate and graduate student for 13 years and I’ve been a faculty member in colleges, universities and seminaries for over 17 years and I’m not sure what it is that brings about the change.
Like generations of parents before us, my children’s mom and I read to our young children every night. It was part of our nighttime ritual: after dinner, we’d watch a little television before we would run into the bedroom of our children. Thankfully, they shared a bedroom at the time and were both into storytelling before it was time to say our evening prayers, followed by a kiss and a hug.
While it would’ve been helpful at times to have an operating instruction manual in raising children, it simply did not come with the arrival of my children. I hunted for it in all kinds of places, but never did find it. And, while my parents often seemed to raise my brother and I effortlessly at times, I now know that most parents do what we do as parents with our children from the seat of our pants. In performing arts terms, parenting is all about the art of improvisation, day in and day out.
My young adult children are slowly coming to understand that their childhood was unique and pretty-darn good. Granted, like most young children, they weren’t sure of what was going on or who had the most power among the three adults who were “parental units” (my daughter’s term).
Good news from my home: My 18-year-old son has begun his first year of college and loves it, finding his groove among a new group of friends, new course of activities and discovering the joys (and drawbacks) to living in a dorm.
One of my most complex memories — fond and sad — involved the simple act of moving a set of bunk beds into my son Parker’s bedroom in the house that I then lived in with his mom. My son was almost three years old and the bunk bed was to be put in his bedroom as he moved out of a crib that had grown too small to fit his growing body.
In many homes, one photograph proudly displayed is a wedding portrait. The wedding portrait can be of the homeowners, or often times, it is a photograph that captures the idyllic moment of the grown-up child of a parent or maybe the image of the parents’ parents renewing their wedding vows on a special anniversary.
I have stood in line and watched as families with children, warring spouses and multi-generational families sail through passport control with little-to-no hassle. I, on the other hand, have always had to separate myself from my partner, each of us filling out our own, individual re-entry cards, marking “0” where you record if you are with any other family member, be it a spouse, child, or parent who is living under the same roof. That small, slightly insignificant act was a gestural reminder that my “family” is not comprehended, or treated like a family, American style.
My “boss” in the church was very direct with me, not holding anything back in telling me how she tells churches that are interested in me as their pastor: “The first thing I tell them is ‘He’s a gay parent.’” With that emotionally charged phrased — in which being openly gay is still considered breaking the law in the Presbyterian Church (USA) — I never hear back from a church. Miffed about this title, I asked my friend John (another minister who is a dad who happens to be divorced and is straight): “Does she call you a straight parent when introducing you to a group.” He chuckled softly and simply shook his head no.
“And stretch one more time, finding your edge and pushing a little bit more, even if it is just an inch or a micro-inch,” Elijah says to his enthusiastic crowd of 25 aging yoga participants at our local YMCA. Downward dog, looking like my Labrador retrievers as they wander into our bedroom with their morning yawn and stretch, I put my head down, push back on my heels, hips up toward the sky, legs and hands outstretched.
In 1967, the Beatles came out with their wonderful album (yes, I mean LP, vinyl disk), “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band.” I was 12 years old, on the edge of entering my teenage years, in Maplewood, N.J., and I saved my money for this album with an incredibly intricate, psychedelically colorful cover. While my parents tolerated (barely) parts of the album, the one song they enjoyed was the honky-tonk “When I’m 64!” In many ways, it was a musical bridge for my parents and me, in which our generations met each other.
A few times a year those of us in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill-Carrboro area are told that we are the first, second or third for a host of being the “best at” and “worst at” for many categories. For example, Money magazine designated Raleigh as number one for business in 2006, while a group called “Tax Foundation” designated Raleigh as one of the “worst” places for business in 2009 (high taxes!). The headline surprising — well, shocking — me concerned the snapshot crowning the Triangle area as the third in the nation having same-sex couples heading households with children by the American Community Survey.
Much of our attention in this society is about the “me” that is coming out to the world around the individual who is LGBTQ. The entire coming-out process is a journey that lasts an entire life. This is due, in large part, because in this society, where being “straight” is still the norm and being LGBTQ is considered the “abnorm,” we are called to be consistently, patiently and lovingly explaining to those around us and strangers: “Yep, I’m gay. It’s part of who I am. And, if you don’t mind my asking, you are…?”
It was a polite gathering: The Boy Scout leader and young man who is a Scout sat with Board members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA (CHCYMCA), answering every question that we had for them about the place and presence of gay teenagers and gay Scout leaders in their Troop. Following up on my previous column about the Scouts selling popcorn at our YMCA, it was also revealed that the Scouts have been given a place to meet among one of our facilities, giving the perception that we support the Boy Scouts. The conflict is that we, at the CHCYMCA, practice full and total inclusion, while the Boy Scouts of America don’t.
It is the season for high school seniors to begin thinking seriously about applying for college or university admissions. Grades from years’ past, all the activities of students engaged in — from student government and plays, to sports and civic service credits — are being counted.
I was walking into my local YMCA when I noticed them: a table of Boy Scouts selling Trail’s End popcorn for a fundraising drive. While my local YMCA (Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch) welcomes LGBTQ individuals and families as full members — without any special proof of our family relationship — the same could not be said of the Boy Scouts of America. I was flummoxed in seeing the Boy Scouts in front of our YMCA branch.
n order that our full-time LGBTQ employees have equal access to purchase the benefits plan that is available to our non-LGBTQ full-time employees and their spouses and children, the non-profit organization first needs 50 non-LGBTQ full-time employees! Both of the major health care providers of North Carolina —- United Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of NC -— have this rule.