Religion And Homosexuality: It Should Be Straight Forward

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

August 19, 2011

Religion And Homosexuality: It Should Be Straight Forward

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Religion Is Responsible For Most Discrimination Against LGBT People.

When Episcopelian Bishop Gene Robinson was here for the Gay Pride Parade, KQED interviewed him. When asked what made him decide to come to San Francisco Pride this year, part of his answer was that:

. . . it’s important for religious groups to participate in Pride because, let’s face it, it’s synagogues and churches and mosques who are responsible for most of the discrimination that the LGBT community has experienced over the years, and it’s important that community hear the faith community is changing . . .

This quote came to mind because Bishop Robinson is featured in Daniel Karslake’s film for the BIBLE tells me so (to buy the film click here). Tough an even-handed treatment of the collision between religion and homosexuality, the film nevertheless makes the validity of Bishop Robinson’s statement clear.

Religious Scholars Contradict Each Other

However even-handed, it is still disconcerting to watch one set of serious scholars say that the bible is against homosexuality and another say the bible has nothing to say about homosexuality because it cannot, it has no concept of it. Or to hear someone say, “the bible is the inherent word of God,” and also hear, “the bible is the word of God through the words of human beings speaking in the idiom of their time.” In one case God Himself speaks, in the other God speaks to one of the Bible’s many authors who then wrote down what he or she thinks He said.

Religious Intellectual Schisms Matter

Scholars teach ministers who go out and are assigned communities to shepherd. For a lot of people, Asian and Pacific Islanders included, church is a vital part of their lives and what ministers pronounce from pulpits pilots their lives. Never mind that not all ministers teach the same gospel, what matters is what their minister teaches. We experienced this in our campaign against proposition 8; people were for or against same sex marriage depending on the church to which they belonged. The question is: do we make change at the people level, ministers level, scholars level, institutional level? Fortunately, it is happening at all levels and it probably has to happen at all levels.

Can Religion Be Grounded In One Fundamental Truth?

If scholars can arrive at such diametrically opposed opinions (and we choose the word opinion purposely), can we then conclude that Christianity lacks a fundamental grounding? That whoever comes along can make his or her own interpretation, whether as a serious student who spent years studying or as someone who mailed ten dollars to Merced for a license. If true, it would be sad because we believe Christianity does have an incontrovertible truth in which all the rest may be safely grounded, namely, love, as in “God loves” and at no time, in all eternity, does God ever hate. There is in for the BIBLE tells me so a memorable quote from Bishop Desmond Tutu:

I can’t for the life of me imagine that God would say:

I will punish you because you are black, you should have been white;

I will punish you because you are a woman, you should have been a man;

I punish you because you are homosexual, you ought to have been heterosexual.

It is a scathing indictment of religion’s errors and the misery that brought to the world. It is also a statement of hope, eventually religion will get it right.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

When Toddlers Grow Up, We’ll Be A Lot Closer To Equality

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The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

August 12, 2011

When Toddlers Grow Up, We’ll Be A Lot Closer To Equality

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Opportunities To Teach Acceptance

Our son’s cousin, five years old, and niece, three years old, were at his commitment ceremony back in New Jersey a few weeks ago. The five-year old has been to weddings and associates them with a boy and girl ceremony. So she had a question: how was it that two boys could get married? Her mother explained that it is OK for two boys to get married or even for two girls to get married. It didn’t matter, because love is love and we should always love our family and friends regardless of whom they marry. She went on to say that some of her friends at school may have two daddies or two mommies.

The three year old has never been to a wedding and asked no questions, but her parents knew that she was going to go to several weddings in the future and wanted to prevent confusion. They read to her from My Uncle’s Wedding by Eric Ross. It’s a children’s book that tells the story of Uncle Mike and Uncle Steve’s wedding through the eyes of their young cousin Andy. Mark Leno issued a California Senate Certificate of Recognition at the book’s launching proclaiming that “the book plays a vital role in creating a brighter future for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and their parents.”

LGBT Visibility Is A Powerful Force

Both little girls didn’t seem to be overly bothered at the wedding. They danced and ate and used up quantities of energy that they will regret having squandered when they are older. Friends tell us stories of their young children asking questions about their two aunties or two uncles and how they try to answer them. LGBT visibility has provided the opportunity to explain to young children that all love is equal. Questions are a healthy sign; it wasn’t too long ago when there were no questions at all.

It Is More About Fear Than Ignorance

But we have one more story, a different one.

On his Facebook page a friend wrote:

I will never understand it when a certain group of individuals would look at me and the one I love in disgust and would not let us sit on the train when their own [people] have fought so hard to have equal rights which is the reason why they are sitting down on that train. Why should we [be] treated like 2nd class citizens? I don’t get the double standards!

There were eighteen comments on this post and many of them said that the reason for the prejudice was ignorance. Ignorance may be part of it, but a far heftier component of the equation is fear. A same-sex couple agitates the norm, represents otherness, is a threat to a belief taught from birth. Some people work it out, others resent it and lash out.

The Future Looks Bright

If we can get enough stories of parents teaching their toddlers love, respect and acceptance, then the Facebook story goes away. When those toddlers grow up to become adults, same-sex couples will be part of their norm and they won’t become agitated when they see a same-sex couple on a train, or anywhere else, and they don’t have to resent it and lash out. They’ll wonder what the big deal was back then.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

Legally Constricting Homophobia

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The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

August 5, 2011

Legally Constricting Homophobia

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Extend Protection of LGBT People In Jury Selection

      A case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena argues that potential jurors should not be dismissed from a jury because they are LGBT. Last year, a trial judge allowed the dismissal of a lesbian from a jury in a trial of a gay Nigerian inmate. This is an error according to the federal public defender’s office that brought the case to court. Bringing this to court is a result of the Obama administration’s call for scrutiny of laws and practices that target LGBT people. The case is also an attempt to extend protection from arbitrary jury dismissal of LGBTs. It is illegal for lawyers to dismiss potential jurors because of race, gender, and religion. If the case goes our way, LGBT persons will be included in that protection.

Another Blow Against DOMA

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles, the largest consumer bankruptcy court in the land, delivered another blow against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In the case of a gay couple who were married in that all too brief period when it was legal to marry in California, Judge Thomas B. Donovan wrote: “In this court’s judgment, no legally married couple should be entitled to fewer bankruptcy rights than any other legally married couple.” You go Judge. What makes this case even more unusual is that 19 of the 24 other judges in the district also signed the decision.

DOMA, the law that bars federal recognition of same sex marriages, is under attack on other fronts as well. The Obama administration concluded that DOMA is unconstitutional and the U.S. Attorney General wrote Congress that the administration would no longer defend it. Last year, a federal judge in Boston also declared DOMA unconstitutional. And New York’s Attorney General joined a court challenge arguing against DOMA’s constitutionality. Of course, House Speaker Boehner disagrees and declared if the administration wouldn’t defend DOMA, Congress would. He is just pandering.

The Glory Of Our Constitution’s 14th Amendment

Back in April, a federal judge in Columbus, Ohio, ruled that a lesbian plaintiff can proceed with her lawsuit wherein she claimed that she was denied promotion because of her sexual orientation and that her supervisors retaliated when she complained. The judge ruled that hers was a case falling under the equal protection clause of our constitution’s 14th amendment. The plaintiff still needs to make her case, but the ruling affects millions of gay civil servants who now are given a clear legal avenue for their discrimination complaints.

Why Are We Citing These Cases?

We believe that social acceptance and respect will take several generations. However long it takes, it must start with a legal foundation. We see these cases and others like it as slender fingers tearing into the cancerous mass of homophobia extracting chunks and at the same time building a legal framework that will eventually suffocate it.

 

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

A Lot Of Work Remains To Be Done

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The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

July 29, 2011

A Lot Of Work Remains To Be Done

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Michele Bachmann Is Running For President

She is not like the slightly off-center Sarah Palin, she is a television talk-show bomb-throwing, religious zealot who receives messages from God and makes outrageous remarks, but who unfortunately knows her way around a political campaign. Worse, she is virulently homophobic. Michele Bachmann’s rise in Minnesota politics is attributed to her anti-gay stance. While a state senator, she co-sponsored a Minnesota constitutional amendment that would bar the state from recognizing same-sex marriage (it hasn’t passed yet). Here is a quote of hers: “If you are involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement. And that is why this is so dangerous. It is a very sad life.”

With her husband Marcus, she owns a Christian family counseling service that reportedly engages in reparative therapy. Now that she is running a national election campaign, her husband, a PhD in clinical psychology, has also come under scrutiny for his homophobic utterances. He was asked what to counsel parents who have a child who says she is gay. His answer: “We have to understand, barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined.” Elsewhere he equated homosexuality to giving in to satanic urges.

Bachman And Others Like Her Are Wrong

We are parents of three children one of whom is gay. Hateful comments by homophobes and especially those in the lime light like Michele and Marcus Bachman are by turns hurtful, sad, and anger provoking. We have first-hand evidence that our gay son is not a barbarian, does not have satanic urges, and does not have to be cured of anything. He is like his brother and sister who aren’t any of those either. We know many of his friends, and neither are they.

During his commitment ceremony two weeks ago, our son did the “Stand-Up” exercise. It was a way for him to introduce people important to him to each other. “Stand-up if you grew up with Lance.” That introduced his siblings. “Stand-up if you gave birth to Lance.” His mother was introduced. And so we became familiar with his community of friends and those of his partner. “Stand up if you go antiquing with Francis.” They were hetero- and homosexual friends but no barbarians. In fact, they were delightful people with whom we had a great time.

The Falsehoods Persist

What is so frustrating and, yes, disappointing too, is that in this day and age there are still people who teach that homosexuality is a condition that can be “cured.” The American Psychological Association issued four principles disavowing reparative therapy. The first principle states:

Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and the APA opposes all portrayals of lesbian, gay and bisexual people as mentally ill and in need of treatment due to their sexual orientation.

Even more disturbing, however, is that a Michele Bachman who spouts such incredibly homophobic idiocy is able to climb the political ladder from school board to state senate to U.S. House of Representatives and now front runner of her party’s quest for the White House. Don’t be too sanguine that hers is a flash in the pan candidacy. Her political rise means is that many people, enough to get her elected, believe in the trash she offers. And that then is the most disappointing feature of all. A lot of work remains to be done.

 

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

Wedding vs. Reality: Love vs. Dogma

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The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

July 22, 2011

Wedding vs. Reality: Love vs. Dogma

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

We’re still in Newark, NJ, basking in the afterglow of a fabulous wedding and also a record shattering heat wave. The boys are on their honeymoon visiting friends and seeing the sights in major cities. A stream of texting arrives daily: stay in air-conditioned places, visit museums, here are some good restaurants to stay in until it cools down. They worry about us old folks.

In the rural New York town of Barker, town clerk Laura Fotusky resigned her position rather than issue marriage certificates to same sex couples. Saying that she could not comprise her conscience she had to choose between her job and her God. It would have to be HER God, because some people’s God would have no problem. Still, misguided as she is, there is a part of her action we respect, acting in accordance with her conviction. Now let’s work to change her conviction and that of all the other misguided people.

When the boys get back from their honeymoon, they will have to register their union with the State of New Jersey. They seem to be a tad blasé about this. Lance, our son, works for an organization that provides partner benefits and Francis is self-employed as an antique dealer, plus they have been together for 15 years already. Still, registering would complete the process and make available the New Jersey rights and privileges married couple have. By the way, they can’t call themselves married in New Jersey and someone is suing over that.

The State of New York has six Episcopal dioceses. Now that gay marriage is legal in New York, the six bishops running those dioceses are divided about how to respond: two have allowed their priests to officiate, one forbids it, two are waffling, and one allows priests to bless, but not officiate at, same sex marriages. For now, this is as it should be. People married without a church long before Jesus and 1200 years after Jesus, for marriage’s link to religion dates from the 12th century. If you and your same sex partner want to get married, go to City Hall, if you want to associate a church with your wedding, find one that understands it is about love, not gender.

The boys had a gorgeous ceremony. They had a professional wedding singer, Lance’s friend from Sarah Lawrence College days, and the signal for the start of the ceremony was her singing “We Belong.” Then the DJ’s played “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and the wedding party came through the doors, down the patio’s center aisle to sit in front. When the party was seated the DJ’s played “Bridal Abba” and the boys came out, down the aisle to their seats. Now came the time for the Mistress of Ceremony, another friend from Sarah Lawrence, who welcomed everyone to “The Commitment Ceremony of Lance and Francis as they celebrate their 15th anniversary together.” At some point the wedding singer sang “You’ll Never Get Away from Me,” and the boys exchanged their vows. They each had prepared their own vows and both promised a lifelong commitment to love and support. After that, the exchange of rings; Francis’ three-year old nephew gave him the ring to give to Lance. Francis said: “This ring is a token of my love. I marry you with this ring, with all that I am.” Lance answered: “I will forever wear this ring as a sign of my love for you.” Then, Lance’s three-year old niece gave him the ring to give to Francis. Same promise, same response. The Mistress of Ceremony: “I now pronounce you partnered forever!” The DJ’s played “Xanadu” and the boys sealed their commitment with a kiss. See, it is all about love.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

For Them: A Commitment Ceremony. For Us: A Wedding

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The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

July 15, 2011

For Them: A Commitment Ceremony. For Us: A Wedding

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

We arrived in Newark, New Jersey, bleary eyed from the red-eye out of Oakland. We came to celebrate the wedding of our son, Lance, to his partner of 15 years, Francis. Lance keeps reminding us that this is not a wedding, gay couples cannot marry in New Jersey. It is a commitment ceremony and they want to keep calling it that to emphasize the gap in America’s human rights promise. But with all the planning, expense, and pomp it sure felt like a wedding to us.

Tuesday, July 12.

      Most members of the cast arrive from Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Petersburg. Tradition would call it a wedding party, but this is a Broadway themed wedding production, thus “cast.”

That evening, Lance’s two best guys took him out to Manhattan for a roving bachelor party that included the club where he met Francis for the first time. There was a surprise, his parents and sister plus husband were to meet them at that club. We were a tad apprehensive, what son wants to go clubbing with his parents? But the “secret” email was insistent: “Be at the club at 11:30 sharp, listen for Mariah Carey’s ‘Fantasy’ and then come down the stairs to the dance floor.” We did and Lance was surprised, shocked is probably a better word, but left shortly afterward–the place is a bit too raunchy–and ended up socializing and dancing someplace else.

Wednesday, July 13

It’s the day before the ceremony and the boys are checking their day-of checklist. “Oh the rings! Don’t forget the rings!” Everything must be buttoned up: music play-lists finalized, Mom and sister still to buy the flowers, and Lance is looking for pretty baskets to hold the pretty wedding favors. He found pride-colored thank-you-for-being-here gift bags. The whole day is permeated with that delicious chaos that precedes all weddings.

The couple and the cast met that evening for the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. But it was really a: let’s visit where we’re going to have the ceremony, run through the script and go to the Thai restaurant for an intimate dinner. We have met many of Lance and Francis’ friends over the past 15 years and dinner felt like a family reunion. It was so great catching-up with people whom we met when young and now are well into their chosen careers.

Thursday, July 14

This was THE DAY. The weather cooperated and the boys could not have wished for a more perfect day. Sandwiched between Newark’s normal hot, humid days with occasional thunderstorms, this evening was an agreeable 78o, not at all humid, with an occasional gently cooling breeze. A guest was heard to say: “God wants this wedding to happen.”

The wedding as a Broadway production was called “The Ceremony.” All guests, 85 of them, received a playbill, complete with cast listing, tiny bios and headshots of the wedding party, and interesting tidbits about the two partners, for example, “Francis’ 15 favorite things.” The ceremony itself was spectacular and struck a near perfect balance between the conventional and innovative. Conventional: the boys dancing with their mothers. Innovative: the vows and the final: “I now pronounce you partners for life,” spoken by the mistress of ceremony. Dinner and dancing, schmoozing and laughing. What an evening!

Parting Thoughts

We don’t care what they call it, it was a wedding. Lance is our last child to transform love into a life-long commitment. We have a sense of completion. We wish a few bishops and a couple of those tottering elders from Salt Lake could have made it. They would have seen love and a community of fabulous friends who truly care. On second thought, they probably wouldn’t have seen any of it entangled as they are in dogma.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

Share Your Story At Our Family Presentation Banquet

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The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

July 8, 2011

Share Your Story At Our Family Presentation Banquet

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Our Family Presentation Banquet

We had our first planning meeting to stage this year’s Family Presentation Banquet. Staging it is an arduous, time-consuming task. Each year we ask if we should have the banquet every other year instead of every year so we free up time and resources for other projects that need to be done. But each year we decide to go ahead and have the banquet, because the power of testimony that emerges from each of the seven banquets we have staged is a powerful antidote for all the negative currents encountered the rest of the year. The why and what of our banquet are on our website, but the individual stories of love and acceptance are its precious gems. Tears actually flow, hugs are shared unabashedly, and we receive moving comments long after the banquet is over.

We Collect Personal Stories

We strongly believe that personal stories are our strongest weapon in the struggle for equal human rights. We collect them and support anybody else who collects them. What can be more revealing about the sense of isolation than parents from Malaysia who unconditionally accepted and honored their lesbian daughter, telling us in open wonder during our first banquet that they thought they were the only ones. Is there a more telling testimony about the iron grip of cultural beliefs than a mother who said when her husband expelled her transgender child from hearth and home: “What could I do, I am a Chinese wife.” Is there a better way to gauge courage and devotion than that same mother defying tradition and accepting and taking care of her HIV infected child: “Man or woman, I have my child back.”

There Is A Role For Statistics

Personal stories should remain as anecdotes and never be aggregated into statistical abstractions. Don’t get us wrong, statistics help measure progress toward our goal and tell us that we are getting there. In May of last year a Gallup poll found that 52 per cent of Americans find that gay relationships are morally acceptable. A CBS poll around that same time found that LGBT persons are more visible: more people acknowledge knowing an LGBT person than before and more people admit having an LGBT relative or close friend. These are indicators of an inexorable shift in the right direction. It motivates us and it will probably help change people’s minds. But for the work at our level, unlike Chad Griffin, we haven’t seen many “dark walls of discrimination crumble.” When an API LGBT comes out to his or her family, tragedy still happens, the stigma is still there, strongly.

Back to Our Family Presentation Banquet

The heart of our banquet is API LGBT persons honoring parents or other family members who remained steadfast and continued to love and honor them when they came out. They stand, nominator and nominee, center stage in front of a microphone and talk of mutual love and respect:

“Thank you for being my lifeline when I came out.”

“Thank you for this opportunity to express how privileged, blessed, and proud I am to have such parents.”

“You are my daughter and I will love you no matter what, as long as you are happy.”

“You are our face to the world. Gay or straight we are so proud of you.”

Do you have someone you wish to honor at our banquet? Sharing your story changes other stories. E-mail us.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

It’s A Lesson Apparently Too Hard For The Learning

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The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

July 1, 2011

It’s A Lesson Apparently Too Hard For The Learning

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Tehachapi, Ca., Joins The List Of Unsafe Places To Learn

After eight months of investigation, the Departments of Education and Justice told the Tehachapi Unified School District that they failed to protect Seth Walsh from “persistent, pervasive, and often severe sex based harassment.” Seth Walsh was the 13-year old gay person who last September hanged himself from a tree in his backyard. That was also the month when two other gay teenagers killed themselves because of homophobic bullying: Asher Brown, 13, from Harris, TX, shot himself, and Billy Lucas, 15, from Greensburg, IN, hanged himself from the rafters of his parents’ barn.

A Slap On The Wrist

So what did Education and Justice do to the Tehachapi school officials? They made a deal. The school district will take steps to prevent sexual harassment, respond appropriately to harassment complaints, change its policy and regulations pertaining to sexual bullying, hire a consultant to provide mandatory training on sexual harassment to everybody: students, teachers, and staff, and it will conduct climate surveys to see if there are improvements. Oh yeah, we almost forgot, the district promises to “eliminate the hostile environment resulting from harassment.” That’s it. A little pathetic, don’t you think?

What Does It Take For Schools To Provide A Safe Place To Learn?

The Tehachapi district violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1972 Education Amendments Law. California has its own AB 537, The California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000. That is 47 and 38 and 10 years of law and Tehachapi just now agreed to pay attention. One of the write-in comments on the Internet about this case proposed suing Tehachapi Unified School District for $35 million as an example to other districts to pay attention. Fat chance. Morgan Hill Unified was fined $1.1 million after five years of litigation. Poway Unified was fined $721 thousand; Visalia $130 thousand; Banning Unified $45 thousand. The list goes on but fines are not the whole story. The California Safe School Coalition estimates that school districts in California lose $39.9 million per year because of absences when students are afraid to come to school. Suing Tehachapi would just add to the list of school districts that didn’t get it. Or, maybe, suing Tehachapi into oblivion would be a tipping point and school districts would actually get serious about providing safe places for learning.

The Dreary Commonness Of Homophobic Harassment

All the cases of homophobic harassment have this in common: harassment took place over a long time, in the case of Seth Walsh, two years; parents of those being harassed complained to school officials; and the school officials deny knowing that harassment took place. But the students know. In case after case investigators uncover that students know the nature and extent of the victim’s homophobic harassment and all other forms of harassment that occur for other types of nonconforming students: race, obesity, religion. Perhaps, Principals and Vice-Principals should have mandatory one-hour walk-abouts every day to see what is happening in their schools’ hallways and playgrounds. Of course, first you would have to teach them to see and hear.

Are There Better Ideas Out There?

When you only have a hammer, all your problems look like nails. When you are an administrator, all your solutions are policies and procedures. But where is the implementation? Does anyone know how to do that? Where would you begin? Maybe the answer to that lies in the answer to this: Where do 13-year olds learn how to hate?

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

If Our Son Moves Across The River, He Can Get Married

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The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

June 24, 2011

If Our Son Moves Across The River, He Can Get Married

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

If It Can Make It There, It’ll Make It Anywhere!

We had something else in mind to write about, but like everyone else we were blown away by the news that New York passed the bill allowing same sex marriage. This is big! The state where the LGBT movement began 32 years ago, provided yet another major milestone to measure progress. Even though New York is only the sixth state to allow same sex marriage, its population size almost doubles the number of LGBT people who can now marry in America. The Williams Institute estimates that the new law affects 42,000 New York State residents who are raising 14,000 children.

Stories Behind The Bill

The stories behind the bill’s passing are as fascinating as the passing itself. Two years ago a similar bill failed to pass. Republican Senator James Alesi then disappointed democrats by voting No. This time he voted Yes and apologized to his fellow Senator Thomas Duane, New York’s first openly gay senator, for failing to do so before.

We think the best story is the one about Senator Grisante, a Republican senator who ran for office pledging to oppose gay marriage. He changed his mind and voted yes. His quote is simple but profound:

I apologize for those who feel offended. I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”

This bill could not have passed without strong support from Governor Cuomo who made same sex marriage a keystone of his election campaign. He stayed at he center of things calling, cajoling, and privately meeting with lawmakers. Goes to show that passing a bill, even a good and just bill, requires political savvy and parliamentary craftsmanship, we think that sometimes that is what is needed most. Governor Cuomo said: “We reached a new level of social justice.” Amen!

Celebrate And Rejoice, But Then Become Vigilant Again

A 33-29 vote is enough to pass, but barely enough to give us that warm fuzzy feeling. New York’s GOP is a formidable conservative force and it threatened to remove from the conservative line any Republican voting Yes. Of course, religion is against it. The only Democrat who voted NO is ordained Pentecostal minister Senator Ruben Diaz. New York’s Archbishop, Timothy Dolan said: “God, not Albany, has settled the definition of marriage, a long time ago.” Scary stuff; whatever happened to the separation of state and church?

We in California know what can happen. The National Organization for Marriage vowed to spend $1 million in New York to ensure that all those who voted Yes would be defeated in the next election. Those folks also point out that in all the states where this issue was put before the voters, 31 states so far, “marriage was protected,” at least their definition of it.

But For Now We Are Happy

We have gained a great victory and slowly the tide is turning in our favor. Nationwide polls show that 55 to 58 per cent of people poled approve of same sex marriage. Regardless of what lays ahead, this train has left the station.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

We’re Not Just In Conversations: We Are The Conversation

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June 17, 2011

We’re Not Just In Conversations: We Are The Conversation

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

One day we wondered if the general public can know about LGBT issues by reading just newspapers. We scoured our local paper for a couple of weeks to see what we could find. To our surprise there was at least one LGBT article in the paper’s main section, sometimes even the front page, almost every day for two weeks. That LGBT issues are discussed in the popular press is eye opening. We remember when newspapers struggled with new editorial rules on how to refer to a gay or lesbian person; how to refer to bisexual and transgender people led to lively debates.

Should Judge Walker Have Recused Himself?

You remember Proposition 8 when 52% of Californians voted to make same sex marriages illegal in our state. All kinds of lawsuits were filed after the proposition’s passing. The American Foundation for Equal Rights filed one in May 2009 in Federal Court to challenge the legality of the ban on same sex marriage. A little over a year later, Judge Vaughn Walker struck down the ban as being unconstitutional. Judge Walker is gay and is in a long-term relationship with a doctor. It didn’t take long for the anti-same sex marriage people to sue on grounds that Judge Walker had a conflict of interest and should have recused himself. This week his successor, Judge Ware—Judge Walker retired in February—rejected the argument and let stay the unconstitutionality of the ban. Between the filing of the suit and this week’s decision, a gold mine of information was exposed. There was the question: can a gay judge in a long-term relationship render a verdict that could ultimately benefit him? Yes, said Judge Ware and compared it to the question can a woman be impartial when judging a case where she seeks legal relief? The party that lost the case vowed they will appeal and cited that old saw: “Our legal team will appeal that decision and continue our tireless efforts to defend the will of the people . . . to preserve marriage as a union of a man and a woman (our underline).” Is a razor thin, 52% majority the will of the people or the tyranny of the majority? We still love the primary reason used by Judge Walker to overturn the ban:

Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples.

Should Tracy Morgan Be Fired?

Comedian Tracy Morgan spouted incredible homophobic slurs during his show in Nashville earlier this month. Audience member Kevin Rogers reported on Morgan’s rant in a Facebook post; it is painful to read. Controversy followed swiftly and furiously. We first read it in the paper and then went to the web to look at everybody’s comments. He should be fired from his television show! He should apologize! Two comments were interesting and open up a number of investigative paths to follow and report on. Morgan contacted the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to help him out structuring his apologies. Some people were angry with that. One comment read that instead of helping him rehabilitate his reputation (if that is even possible), GLAAD should be getting him fired. Another wrote that he would never again contribute a single cent to GLAAD. Yet another was from a professional comedian who said that a rant similar to Morgan’s by a white person about black people would have caused immediate dismissal as several cases have already demonstrated. But homophobia is one of the last remaining areas where such a rant may still be tolerated, soon it won’t be.

We Are The Conversation

What a great change from even a few years ago. We are in the news all the time now. Surely those who still harbor ill will against LGBT people must feel the circle around them slowly getting smaller.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

How Do We Overcome The Gap Between Social Constructs And Reality?

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

June 9, 2011

How Do We Overcome The Gap Between Social Constructs And Reality?

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Mother and father are sitting around the kitchen table casually talking to their teenager on vacation from college. Talk is about grades, plans for after graduation and “is there a woman or man in your life?” It is a cozy scene dear to parents, especially when the question about “woman or man” is innocently taken to mean a member of a sex opposite to their child’s. The conversation takes a turn; the teenager tells his or her parents that he or she is LGBT. The cozy scene is shattered and the parents go through many emotions: anger, sadness, fear, indignation, disbelief, doubt. There are reasons for this. First, sex is rarely a subject of general discussion in API households. Second, parents usually don’t know a thing about sexual identity or orientation other than their own. When their teenager tells them he or she is different, they lack everything necessary to process and absorb that information. Probably they’ll have heard it is a bad thing and associated with HIV/AIDS. We well remember our own reaction when our son told us he was gay.

To understand An LGBT Family Child, Parents Must Learn.

If the parents accept their teenager’s “otherness,” and that is a big if, then they commit themselves to learn about the staggering sexual diversity that exists. That diversity is difficult to grasp especially when there is an ever shifting vocabulary to describe conditions. When we first started putting together our workshops, we thought that a vocabulary would be helpful. This means that and that means this and on the basis of accepted definitions we could move toward understanding. Surprise one: the people who reviewed our definitions couldn’t agree on them. Surprise two: definitions won’t get you there. When we learned our son is gay meant that he is “a man emotionally, physically, and sexually attracted to other men,” it provided no insight on who he is. Learning, however, is rewarded with insights and after a few years looking at that definition our insight was: our son is a man, period. We still mark that as a milestone in our attempts at understanding.

It Gets More Complicated, But Also More Rewarding

When parents become active allies, then the learning curve becomes larger and steeper. We scoured books and websites looking for meanings and insights. We read and reread our sources, we compared them against each other, we tried to own the knowledge buried in definitions. One of our memorable insights came from an Intersex Society of North America website entry: definitions are social constructs. Social constructs exist “to simplify social interactions, express what we know and feel, and maintain order.” Aha, our social constructs admit only male or female roles and burden them with specific expectations. When someone does not fit that social construct, it makes social interactions more difficult, we cannot express what we know and feel, and order is lost. So that is why everyone is so upset.

What is it that we teach?

Reality is what it is, our children are who they are, but we work with social constructs built to meet society’s needs regardless of reality. Now we have a question. What do we teach to advance the cause of equal rights when definitions are constructed to fit a social need and not a reality? Would it be different? How different? If it remains a fundamental tenet that societies must be orderly, then we need to find ways to include sexual realities in our constructs. But how?

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

How Useful Are LGBT Workshops To Dispel Fear and Loneliness?

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

May 27, 2011

How Useful Are LGBT Workshops To Dispel Fear and Loneliness?

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Belinda was part of 90-minute workshop at the 4th Annual Pilipino Youth Leadership Conference at Stanford. She conducted the second 45-minute half on coming out and parents acceptance. The first half, lead by a gay Pilipino, presented statements about LGBT and asked participants to react to them in writing on large sheets of butcher paper. For example, write what you think of: “Filipino culture is accepting of LGBT people.” The workshop atttendees were highschool and undergrate students, both gay and straight. Afterward we poured over the butcher paper to examine the comments.

We Have Seen And Heard A Lot, But There Are Still Surprises

We have done many of these workshops and plan on doing many more. We are familiar with the statements to express the fear of coming out. We are familiar with what LGBTs believe their families’ reaction will be. Still, there are always surprises. A young straight Pinay whose mother came out as a lesbian worried how to protect her mother who would surely be ridiculed and harassed. The same sort of anxiety a mother has when her daughter comes out. Another person wrote: “one person’s identity = the family’s identity.” We had never seen that so simply but elegantly put, although we do know that family is central for all API cultures and the smallest unit of social analysis. We read a statement in gorgeous block print: “Bringing shame to family name.” We wondered whether that is the same as bringing shame to family; ‘family name’ seems to connote past and future generations. Another common anxiety is that once an LGBT comes out, people will regard him or her in only one dimension: he is gay, she is lesbian, as if that is all there is. Of course, there is the stereotyping that comes with that label and we saw written: “Stereotype of LGBT people in the media.

With All The Progress Achieved, On A Personal Level Things Are Still The Same

One statement in the first half of the workshop asked what it means to be a queer Pilipino. One person wrote: “embarrassment, confusion, frustration, anger, fear, lonely, lost, run away?” Another added: “Loss of community, loss of friends.” After all this time, after all the progress made on legal and religious fronts, after all the visibility gained—we read that 53% of the American people favor same sex marriage—on a personal level, API LGBTs still express the same anxiety as when API Family Pride first started almost twenty years ago. Nothing can be more frustrating. We read a lot of stories, not just those from our workshops. We read of a mother’s worry that her gay son would be the victim of “friendly fire” when he joined the army. We read of a boy in Brooklyn who was the victim of a homophobic beating. He said he knew it would happen again and again and was life worth all that pain and fear; why not end it? His friends got him out of those dark thoughts. But the thoughts still happen.

We Need Help and Ideas

Our friend Mark Molina posted “Pink Dot 2011: Support the Freedom to Love—18 June 2011” on our Facebook group page. Check it out, see what you can do, and help us come up with more ideas to eliminate the fear and loneliness. We sorely need them.

 

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

 

 

Become Inspired To Tell Your Own Story

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

May 20, 2011

Become Inspired To Tell Your Own Story

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

We encourage you to see the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project’s (QWOCMAP) 7th Annual Queer Women of Color Film Festival at the Brava Theater in San Francisco on June 10, 11, and 12. It is not only fun, but also insightful. QWOCMAP is an organization that addresses issues concerning queer women through art and activism. Their art is film.

All Communities Have Groups But Only One Dominates

Visualize a community, does not matter whether large or small, represented by concentric circles. The dominant group lives in the center and as you move away from the center, you’ll encounter other groups less and less dominant. In the last couple of circles you’ll find groups that are truly on the margins. The dominant group defines the universe. In fact, the dominant group and the universe are one and the same. Like a total eclipse, that little center casts a shadow that covers all other circles. The group in the center is not compared to other groups, indeed, it is the standard for comparison. Its values become fundamental truths and its beliefs are codified in law. The center group does not have to listen and therefore does not hear.

How Do You Tell Others About Yourself And Your Group?

What happens when you don’t belong to the center? It probably depends on how far from the center you are. If you live way out there, you are probably invisible and unheard. Our son published an article while still in college writing that his was a double curse: a gay person of color in a euro-centric patriarchy. What would it be like when you are a person of color and a woman and a lesbian, bisexual or transgender? Who would you talk to? Who would talk to you? Who is listening? Most people are resilient and find other people like them and form groups of kindred spirits, build a circle and talk to each other. But at times, talking to just each other is not enough. There is a longing to have life make sense in a context larger than the immediate one. There is an urge to be heard by others, to tell them who you are and that you matter. It would be difficult, no doubt, because you’re not seen or heard, but you try.

Tell Your Story Anyway You Can And Learn From Others

There are many ways to be heard, Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project does it with film. Film is a powerful way to get your message across. Advertisers use it to sell products and Hollywood creates stereotypes without even trying. But film is expensive, it costs about $1000 per minute of final film. How many times have you seen a film about and by queer women of color? Not very many, because queer women of color usually don’t have access to the money necessary to make even a ten-minute film. They also have little opportunity to develop the talents and skills to translate vision into art. QWCMAP is changing that. They offer free workshops for queer women to tell their story with film. At the festival you can see 38 new stories that will inspire and encourage you to tell your own. We collect stories. Stories, especially those that are personal, are probably the best way to be heard across all concentric circles. Go visit the festival, see and listen what a group from one of the outer circles is telling you. They are not whispering and what they have to say will make you think of a way to tell your own story.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

A Mirror For Our Times: The Presbyterian Church (USA) Allows The Ordination Of LGBTs.

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

May13, 2011

A Mirror For Our Times: The Presbyterian Church (USA) Allows The Ordination Of LGBTs.

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

LGBTs can be ordained.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) passed an amendment to its constitution allowing LGBTs to be ordained. They join three other major protestant denominations that have already done so: the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Episcopalian Church, and the United Church of Christ. By itself, this is a historic moment and shows real progress, but here we want to use it as an illustration, limited, to be sure, of how America’s opposition against LGBTs has slowly lessened and how fundamental change for LGBT rights that happen in established social institutions may be used as a mirror how the rest of the nation will eventually grant totally equal rights to LGBTs.

How The Presbyterian Process Works

Large established institutions have processes in place to effect and legitimize change. The Presbyterian Church (USA) is governed by a method whereby authority flows both from the top down and the bottom up. At the top is the General Assembly and in the summer of 2010 it approved a constitutional amendment removing all obstacles to ordain LGBTs. However, amendments to their constitution must be ratified by a majority of presbyteries. A presbytery is the regional governing body of a group of local churches. There are 173 presbyteries and on Tuesday, May 10, the Twin Cities Presbytery became the 87th regional body to approve the amendment thus making it part of the Presbyterian Church’s (USA) constitution.

Changes In Attitude, Flexibility In Application

Large established institutions that make such fundamental changes reflect a change in the larger society. The church has been debating the ordination of LGBTs since the first Presbyterian gay minister came out in 1974. This was the third time the General Assembly voted to end ordination discrimination against LGBTs, but the presbyteries voted down the two previous attempts. The last vote, in 2009, was 95 against and 78 for. Not all presbyteries have voted on the latest amendment yet, but of those that have, 19 switched from “no” to “yes,’” although one switched from “yes” to “no.” This change in attitude reflects an overall softening in the nation’s opposition against LGBTs. A quote found in the Los Angeles Times from one woman who changed her mind and voted for the amendment is irresistible: “I finally decided at the age of 63 that it is inevitable. I think it’s like getting black people come to white churches, or letting women become ministers. It is inevitable.” Real fundamental change does not receive full support all at once and those who oppose change should be given a chance to reflect. There are presbyteries that do not approve the amendment and they are allowed to continue to oppose ordination of LGBTs, but the church as a whole no longer has a rule against it. We believe such flexibility is crucial at the start of any change, to allow for reflection, to allow for healing, so that in time total LGBT acceptance by all is gained.

How Does This Affect Our Work?

Our work occurs at the personal level, but it is greatly aided by the successes of those who work at the institutional level. Right of ordination, equal marriage rights, immigrant rights, all these and other struggles, once successful, tear the existing social fabric. Enough of those tears and we will have to get a new social fabric. Many people look to their social institutions and changes there influence changes in personal attitudes. Progress will be uneven, where some will accept others will continue to deny, but the change in favor of LGBT rights is inevitable.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org

 

Transgenders Belong To Our Community

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The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

May 6, 2011

Transgenders Belong To Our Community

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Transgender Attacked In MacDonald’s Restaurant

On April 18, in a MacDonald’s in Rosedale MD, a Baltimore suburb, a transgender woman was viciously attacked by two other women. A videotape of that attack went viral and we saw it before it was pulled from YouTube, The brutality of the attack is overwhelmingly shocking. The transgender woman is beaten, stomped, and dragged by her long hair across the floor. Equally shocking is that her two attackers are 14 and 18 years old. Most people present just watched, one employee took the video, another tried halfheartedly to stop it, and a 50-year old woman customer forcefully stepped in, but the attack stopped only when the victim lay on the floor in an epileptic fit.

The “T” In LGBT Stands For Transgender

A child is born. The doctor holds it, looks, and congratulates the mother on having delivered a healthy and beautiful son or daughter. How does the doctor know? Simple, by looking at the baby’s genitals and based on what is there, sex is assigned. Once assigned, implacable social forces begin to grind: roles are defined, behaviors taught, expectations formed. The doctor could be wrong. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines sex as a person’s biological status as either male or female. Gender, on the other hand, is a term used to describe how people feel about themselves and how they act and interact in social settings regardless of their assigned sex. How often does it happen that an assigned sex does not match the person’s gender? The APA estimates that two to three percent of males cross-dress and that 1 in 10,000 biological males wish to be female and 1 in 30,000 biological females wish to be males. Across large populations, that is quite a number of mis-identifications.

Violence Directed At Transgenders Is Marked By Brutality

During the “No on Prop 8” campaign we sometimes heard from members of the transgender community that the discussions and arguments failed to include them. It was true and it is wrong. Securing human rights for LGBTs means that all stories must be told and all voices heard. Still, transgenders are a group apart when it comes to violence. Social sanctions imposed for not following assigned gender lines include: schoolyard bullying, street harassment, property vandalism and murder. There is one other characteristic: brutality. A Gender Public Advocacy Coalition report states that transgenders were killed with violence “beyond that necessary to terminate life.”

How Do We Start Making It Right?

One of our mission statement’s three commitments is to education. We have to educate our community about the sexual and gender diversity within our cultures. What should we teach when a 14-year and 18-year old hate so much that they feel justified to physically attack a person who crossed the gender line? Where do a 14-year and 18-year old learn so much hate and so much contempt for a fellow human? Is it ignorance? Is it selfishness? Is it religion? Michael Kimmel thinks that our society requires that people fit into specific categories, male-female, gay-straight, good-bad. When they don’t we get uncomfortable, they must fit! So that is where maybe we should start developing material to educate, showing and practicing that between those categories there is a treasure trove of experience and life and humanity. We need help, we need to form strong coalitions. But we must do it.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But It Is Words That Really Hurt Me.

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

April 22, 2011

Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But It Is Words That Really Hurt Me.

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

If you don’t believe the title, just ask any Asian or Pacific Islander who has been called “gook,” “chink,” “slant-eye,” “flip,” or any of the other slurs others use to set us apart. Or, better yet, ask any API LGBT how it feels to have the anti-gay slur, call it the F word, hurled at him or her. Words and names are encrusted with meaning and when words are used as slurs, meanings are always demeaning and hurtful.

A Recent Example

In a game against the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant directed an antigay slur against referee Bennie Adams. It was in the third quarter and referee Adams called Kobe on a technical foul, his fourth of the game. Kobe furiously stalks to the bench, sits down, throws a towel on the floor, picks it up, then calls the referee by name and says “f-ing F. . .” There is no mistake, watch the clip carefully, see Kobe’s face expressing anger, frustration, and loathing. He is searching for a way to vent short of physical violence and he comes up with the next best thing: “f-ing F…” In that instance, by uttering that word, Kobe expressed his anger with a slur that defines Adams as less than him, less than other humans. That is what slurs do.

Slurs Brand People Rightly or Wrongly

There is no such thing as a slur without meaning, not even unintended meaning. They are hateful and every slur is used to brand the person to whom it is directed as someone less than the person who issued it. It does not have to be yelled by someone with a stature as Kobe Bryant. It could be a child in the schoolyard, a person at work, a clergy in the pulpit. About eight years ago we crafted a survey to assess the incidence of name calling, that is, the use of slurs, in our pubic schools and were successful in having our local school district administer it to both students and faculty of the all district’s junior and senior high schools. It is amazing how many words are invented to demean other people, but the two most often heard slurs referred to people’s “physical size or shape” and sexual orientation. Students heard other students use slurs and they even heard teachers use slurs. One reason we wanted to have the name calling measurement is to make the case that an environment where slurs are used is not a safe environment and detrimental to learning. We heard heartbreaking testimony from people who spent all their years of high school being subjected to slurs. They were made to feel as less than others in the school population. For them going to school was an act of courage.

Words Have Meaning And Therefore Consequences

Kobe Bryant has apologized for his use of the F-word saying that his words were not meant literally. Not that again! That excuse doesn’t work because there is no other meaning attached to the F-word and the only way it can be taken is literally. The league fined him $100,000; he is challenging the fine. In a column for the New York Times, John Amaechi, the first openly gay NBA player, commented that young people in America “are being killed and killing themselves” because of the power of the F-word. Says Amaechi: “This F-word, which so many people seem to think is no big deal, is the postscript to too many of those lives cut short.” What do you think? Is there such a thing as a harmless slur? Have you been subjected to slurs?

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org

 

A Coming-Out Story With a Happy Ending

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

April 15, 2011

A Coming-Out Story With a Happy Ending

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

An Unhappy Start

A dear friend sent us an email a couple of days ago. He came out to his parents and their reaction was the typical one; they thought being gay is a disease and can be cured. Our friend wrote that he felt miserable. We wish for ourselves talents of Nobel Prize caliber writers, then we could more easily express our frustration and sadness about this state of affairs that happens all too frequently, probably each time a son or daughter tells his or her parents that theirs is an alternative sexual orientation. And we could write how unnecessary the pain and misery are.

Habits and Beliefs That Could Make for a Bad Ending

Tight knit relationships are the norm in Asian families as is the tradition of self-reliance and keeping private matters, well, private. The misery experienced by our friend because of his parents’ reaction has its twin in the misery felt by his parents. We well remember the time when our son came out. What we knew about homosexuality wouldn’t fit a thimble and it was all pejorative. An avalanche of emotions cascaded down. There is the contradiction: all we had were homosexual caricatures, our son could not be any of those. There were recriminations: here he is being selfish again, only thinking of himself. Why is he hurting us this way? What have we done to deserve this? Then came the self-doubts: where did we make a mistake? Did I, as a father, treat my wife in such a way that he did not want to be like me? Did I, as a mother, cuddle him too much? There also was a selfish shame: what will our parents say? Our sisters and brothers? Our friends? And a great mystery: instead of the son become man, in front of us stood a total stranger. The emotions did not come in any order; they came all at once in a confusing and confused jumble. At that moment, there is nothing to stem the tide, nothing to hang on to, nothing to make it stop.

A Happy Ending

This story has a happy ending. Our friend’s father went to see a doctor to find out if being homosexual can be cured. The doctor said it couldn’t be cured. Our friend’s parents will now not only accept him for who he is, but will also welcome his long-term partner into the family and treat them as married. This is a very happy ending, indeed. The journey is not over, however. Having a child with an alternative sexual orientation is a revolutionary change in the way parents look at the world. Even when we learned that it is not a phase, not a disease, that he will not come to his senses, it still took awhile to fully comprehend that homosexuality is a normal healthy alternative sexual orientation. It also took awhile to realize that being gay is just a small part of who our son is. He is so much more and we still get irritated when friends refer to him as our gay son with the same single dimensionality they refer to his brother as the one who gave us a grandchild and to his sister as the photographer. Our children are so much more than those facile characterizations.

Tell Us Your Story

Our small non-profit exists to help keep families together when a member comes out of the closet. We collect stories such as these, even those where the outcome is not as happy. We collect them to craft a better way to help. What can you say to an anguished parent? What do you tell to a distraught child who so painstakingly planned his coming out strategy only to have the result be rejection? How do we pick up the pieces? If you have any stories or ideas, please let us know. How did your coming out go? How, as a parent, did you finally come to understand what at first was such a horrendous revelation?

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride – www.apifamilypride.org

Organized Religion: They Are Opponents, But Not Ever the Enemy

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

April 8, 2011

Organized Religion: They Are Opponents, But Not Ever the Enemy

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

A Priest in Exile

Our Sunday’s paper published a brief article written by a Catholic priest who has been in voluntary exile from the Oakland diocese for six years. He took himself into exile because of what he sees as the Church’s failings. He writes: “Every Sunday I stand outside Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland with a sign that reads: ‘Structural reform now! Include the Excluded: Women, Abuse Survivors, Gay Persons.” He closes the article by asking readers to join him “. . . on Sunday, April 10 outside the Cathedral in Oakland for the first anniversary of this weekly protest for structural reform . . .”

Organized Religion Is Important to API LGBTs

Readers of this blog know our stance on organized religion. In the main we are critical because they put so many obstacles in our path toward social equality. We believe it is hypocritical raising millions of dollars to fight against gay marriage and at the same time paying out millions of dollars in damages to survivors of priest abuse. We read the letters and thus know the language the Oakland diocese used to oppose gay marriage. Still, they are opponents not enemies and for many API LGBTs the church is a vital part of their lives. Our archive preserves the story of a transgender’s mother who still teaches catechism. We have testimony from an API couple whose church rejected them because they have a lesbian daughter. We heard from an API lesbian who after she was banned from her church asked in despair why God had forsaken her. The people in these examples clung to their faith and eventually found a church that accepts them for who they are. We have more testimony like that and, yes, in some cases rejected API LGBTs turn away from the church, but surprisingly less than we would expect. Organized religion, despite its many insults to humanity, remains important for its practice drafts participants into a tight community of shared values. We believe that religion, all religion, should be based on a philosophy of tolerance and a continual striving for understanding. It should teach love and practice inclusion of and respect for all diversity, sexuality and gender included. Religion, though, has become big and complex and it is fallible people who govern that complexity: smart, dumb, ambitious, indolent. Somewhere among the rules and regulations philosophy and teaching drowned.

Organized Religion Must Change

The exiled priest tries to change the church from without. Is that a good strategy? Would it be more effective to change the church from within? We vacillate between the two. On the one hand, we know how frustrating it can be to be part of a community and try to change it. On the other hand, we know the frustrations of effecting change from the outside. The exiled priest is on the outside, but another priest from that same Oakland diocese has helped us with our programs. Staying within the bounds of his vows he has extended himself for our cause. There is the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. There is also the Network on Religion and Justice for API LGBTs, a network of organizations that include accepting churches. Finally, we read reports that organized religion is becoming more and more accepting of LGBTs. The reason is simple, organized religion cannot let itself become irrelevant, because for too many APIs it is an important force. Fortunately, it already has the seeds to become a relevant once again.

 

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org

 

Family Circle: Do You Want to Host One?

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

April 1, 2011

Family Circle: Do You Want to Host One?

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

What Is It?

Family Circle is a program we have been trying to get off the ground for a while now. We are convinced that the concept is a good one it’s just that effective execution remains elusive. The concept is to gather a few API families together, say between six and twelve people, and over good food, Asian of course, discuss experiences how they dealt with the coming out of an LGBT family member. These must be experiences that led to acceptance and respect because our purpose is to collect them into workshop material so that we can take it to our community and help keep families together. Sort of like lessons learned and distilled into information that others can use.

We Thought That Is What It Was

Sometimes it is better to let something happen and adapt it to your purpose rather than trying to force the thing to happen by careful planning. And that is what we did. A couple of weekends ago, an Asian LGBT, let’s call him Ben, contacted us to say that his parents were coming from Asia to stay with him for two months. Although the parents stayed with him on previous occasions, he never told them he was gay. This time he wanted to tell them. Ben asked if we could help by putting him in contact with mandarin speaking parents to come and talk to his parents after he had come out to them. We called on our network, told them of his request and, of course, they would help. Some who responded were Asian LGBTs who wanted to share their experience coming out to their parents. Seeing this, Ben decided to invite them and us to dinner with him and his partner at their apartment before his parents came. We recognized this as a form of our Family Circle; help families stay together by sharing experiences of others so that, in this case, a gay man can prepare to tell his parents. For us that is key: helping to keep families together, and even though we originally conceived Family Circle primarily for families, especially parents, of LGBT children we saw this request as a variation of our original concept. We had that dinner in their apartment; six people were there, a seventh called and talked with Ben for a long time. Ben and his partner were fantastic hosts, the food was good, the conversation effortless. We talked, we offered the family experiences we already collected, we went off on illustrative tangents, and time flew without any of us being aware of time. It was all we wanted a Family Circle to be.

We Wish the Future Were Here Already

API Family Pride’s goal is to make itself obsolete. There will be a time when there is no stigma or shame attached to being LGBT, when sexual and gender diversity are seen as merely a different aspect of all diversity. Until then, though, it is heartbreaking to witness the difficult personal struggle of a loving and caring son trying to tell his parents who he is and share with them his partner of seven years. We wish we could be there in spirit and wave a wand to show the parents that the son who just now told them he was gay, is the same loving and devoted son he was two minutes ago before he told them. But maybe, they don’t need our wand and they will love him regardless. It has happened.

 

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org

Have You Seen Our Fabulous Wall of Pride Exhibit?

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

March 25, 2011

Have You Seen Our Fabulous Wall of Pride Exhibit?

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

It Started With a Few Display Boards

You should come see it, you really should. The Wall of Pride is our most asked for program and we love putting it together. To think, it started as an afterthought to our annual banquet. Each year we organize a Family Presentation Banquet. It is an event where API LGBTs honor those family members who remain loving and caring during and after they came out. The way it works is we ask API LGBTs who want to honor someone to submit a 100-word written testimony plus a color photograph of the persons to be honored. Once submitted, we convert the testimony and photograph to a 20 X 30 inch display board: photograph on top and testimony below as caption. The boards are then prominently displayed during our banquet along with those of previous years. After seven banquets we have 45 boards.

A few years ago, we were invited to set up our booth at a diversity fair. Belinda thought it would be a good idea to bring a few boards and put them on stands in front of the booth to increase visibility and attract people. The result was amazing. People came over, read the text and asked all kinds of questions (at least, those who didn’t recoil once they figured out who we were and what we do. We have had a few of those). The Wall of Pride Exhibit was born. We began showing our boards, all of them or just some of them, in high schools, universities, conferences, workshops, and public places like Oakland’s City Hall. And as the word spread, people began to ask for them.

Then Dreamed to Make It Bigger

For a while we just showed just the boards, but eventually decided to expand the exhibit with other mementos from our banquet. We have photographs, videos, comments written in booklets we leave on tables during the banquet, and, most of all, we have emotional testimony from both the API LGBTs an the people they are honoring. We asked curators questions about how it is done. We went to exhibits to see what we liked. We brainstormed a theme by trying to answer the question: What exactly do we want to accomplish with our exhibit. Our Wall of Pride is a visual communication from API families with LGBT children to the API community and especially those in that community who fear shame and dishonor and so remain silent about their own LGBT children. It’s a shout: “Look! Despite of what you think, you are not alone!” We also want our exhibit to impart to those who view it the indescribable emotions that reign at our banquet. We still need that theme.

Now We’re Working to Make the Dream a Reality

We have some ways to go before our dream for the exhibit becomes reality. It requires more money than we have, but slowly and surely we are getting there. People are donating their time and talents to make it work. In the meantime, we show what we have. From May 2 through 6, our exhibit will be at the University of San Francisco. In return, the people there will design three banners and donate those to us when the exhibit is done. From May 9 to 14, we’ll be at Stanford. Saturday the 14th, though, is special as we are only showing the Philippine portion of our Wall of Pride for the Pilipino Youth Leadership Conference.

If you haven’t yet, come see us. Our website has the exhibit schedule as it unfolds.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org