Pulse

Last night I was on the rooftop of our residence hall here at Rice University, sharing drinks and dancing and laughing with friends from the Milwaukee Teach for America corps. A few of us had gone to Rainbow on the Green, a family-centered LGBTQ celebration here in Houston, and since I hadn’t been able to attend, I eagerly listened as my friends shared their thoughts on the music, the atmosphere, the same-sex couples walking hand-in-hand with their children (“Life goals, right there,” Sean said, his hand on his heart, his eyes closing ever so slightly, and all I could do was smile and agree). And Houston Pride is two weeks away, so we’re already making plans to attend as a group.

Then this morning I was sitting at breakfast, and another friend said, “I’m kinda scared after Orlando,” and I didn’t know what she meant (my first thought was, “I haven’t been on Facebook lately” since that’s where I tend to get my news), and when she told me last night had been the largest mass shooting in US history–with more dead and injured than at Virginia Tech–and that it happened at a gay nightclub, I was stunned speechless.

It’s easy to rationalize different places and different spaces as a series of overlying Venn diagrams, here there is inclusion, here there is not, and here is that region in the middle full of tension and bated silence and awkward encounters at the bar, leaving everyone uncomfortable. But such drastic dehumanization forgets the fact that while we were celebrating our queer identity in the middle of a college university in Texas, the lives of hundreds were impacted by the bigotry born and raised in Florida.

We may be in separate places, but this space is shared: the sudden fear that all our years of visibility and changing hearts and minds has brought us nowhere, that the hatred against gay and lesbian and bi and transgender (and all other sexuality/gender-non-conforming) people is as paramount today as it was in the nineties when DOMA was passed, when Matthew Shepard was slaughtered, when Harvey Milk was assassinated.

Earlier this week someone told me that I “don’t really look gay,” and later this week I had a conversation with peers about a presenter who we all had thought was gay, and isn’t, and it only pushes to the forefront of our minds that sexual orientation and gender expression are not purely inherent, individual identities, but faces that can be inscribed upon others through the lenses of ignorance and assumption: I can move through the world being assumed straight, and that demands my authenticity even more. That privilege obliges me to be open about my sexuality and speak about all of these issues.

Because even when we speak openly, even when we keep to our own and stay in our own spaces, outsiders can and will and have come inside to shoot us down, to end our lives.

I will not be held silent. I will speak, and I will sing, and I will stand against hatred in each of its forms, before each of its faces, because if I cannot live bravely, who can?

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If You Please

This weekend was none other than the 25th annual North Carolina Pride. Actually, the event has been going on all week, but it culminated with the Pride Parade on Saturday. I had the opportunity to go once before, and it was a lot of fun and so sunny all my pictures were washed out from the intense sunlight.

Yesterday it rained.

But in this rain, the festivities went on with a crowd as strong as could be, and after the parade I ended up in a lengthy conversation with a visiting Christian who was shouting to all of us that we were sinners and would all go to hell. I hadn’t realized how significant that encounter had been until I reread today’s teaching.

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Two for One and One for Five

Or, Observations; or, Character Profiles of the Rabbinical Kind

This week’s lesson is not a lesson at all. This week’s lesson is a list; and not a list like last summer’s three precepts, pillars, or principles, but a list of names: five students, in fact. It teaches nothing, nothing at all. It is merely a forward to next week.

2.10 Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakkai had five disciples, namely:

Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananiah, Rabbi Yose Ha-Kohen, Rabbi Shimon ben Netanel, Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh.

Not very much to work with, is it? I pondered for a moment, I could discuss names, but that’d be a topic teaching little and lasting less, so I thought, if the point is to study, why not go until we have something to study? That is, this week, I’m doing TWO teachings! So let’s carry on, shall we?

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Ten Reasons to be Me

Sometimes it’s not enough to try. Life beats us up, throws us down, tramples us dead on the ground. Sometimes it’s just not enough to try. We falter, we fall, we fail. Once we’re there, bathed in darkness, it’s hard to swim to the shore. Sometimes I think it can’t be done at all.

But even in the deepest darkness there’s still light, and when we’re on our knees, it’s to that star inside we must turn our eyes. Listing the things we admire in ourselves, recalling our strengths, can draw that light nearer, and with our strength returned, we can finally swim ashore.

Today I’m diving in. Will you swim with me?

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It’s About Red and Blue

For me it started early. Back in ’99, Pokemon was all the rage, and you had just two choices: Red or Blue. Even before then, on Nickelodeon game shows like Double Dare and all the others, and also on other hit shows like American Gladiators, everyone was divided into one of two teams: Red or Blue. Then subconsciously, every four years, when great athletes like George W. Bush and Al Gore, or Bush and Kerry, or Barack Obama and John McCain, raced to the finish to strike with the gold, I watched in childish wonder as one by one, the fifty States were painted on TV, Red or Blue.

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