Thursday, May 10, 2012

We Are All Equal in Love

 I am a woman. I am a minister in the Progressive Christian Alliance, a registered nurse and a storyteller. My partner, Anna, is an academic librarian and a pianist. We contribute to our community in a number of ways. We work hard. We pay taxes on our home. We are decent people in the minds of most of our neighbors. We are a family. And we are people of faith.

 I created a program that allows women in the county jail to write their life stories and make theater out of their own narratives. I do this work because I want the women in the project to know that their lives matter; their stories make a difference in the world and they have the power to create improved stories for their futures.

 Everybody has a story to tell that can shed light on the world's fears, stories that will make some of the darkness disappear. I have faith in the power of story. Each of us is assigned a role in the story of our community. We can accept our assignment or develop a better role to play in the community's narrative. Any of us can be a healer, a villain, a hero or a victim. We don't have to be limp and lifeless on the sideline. We can choose to be courageous characters. My hope is that the work I do in the county jail helps to liberate women who have made mistakes in their lives, women who have been victims and then turned around to victimize others. Their stories can take a more constructive turn with a guide. I try to light the way along with a host of creative volunteers who make the Prison Stories Project happen. The art of storytelling builds a bridge we can all walk across to connect and better understand our neighbors. It's about stereotypes and dismantling them. It's about breaking down walls.

 Anna and I have many stories to tell. One of our stories is about our love for each other. Being lesbians is one part of our combined identity. Our love for each other is not a problem to anyone. But I think the idea of our relationship receiving society's approval robs some of our neighbors of their sense of security. Their loss is related to trust. They were told that intimacy and love can only be legitimate between a man and a woman. This has been expressed as Truth by those who are trusted to share the truth. If it is possible that the trusted voices are wrong about love and intimacy then what else might be open for discussion? This is what inspires such outrage over the issue of gay marriage. People are afraid to consider that their parents and preachers might not know the absolute truth. If we are considering gay marriage then that would leave each one of us responsible to do the hard work of discovering truth for ourselves. That would require change. And change is what inspires fear in all of us.

 I am sympathetic with those who resist gay marriage. My story involves a long and painful struggle to accept my attraction to women. It took courage for me to claim my identity as a lesbian. I was a United Methodist minister when I came out of the closet. I lost my job but I found the power in my life story. I know how terrifying change can be. And I also know that face to face story sharing and truth telling can provide the guideposts we need to respect each other as we go through the challenges and obstacles that come with major shifts and changes.

 My love for Anna does not rob any of our neighbors of what they need in order to have a satisfying story. Anna and I do not see the love of our heterosexual neighbors and friends as a problem for us. We all go to the store, read books, mow the lawn, walk our dogs and swat at mosquitoes. It has never been clear to me what part of getting the oil changed in our car is the "gay lifestyle." We are people with a need for respect and equal treatment under the law. Our story is so ordinary as to be uninteresting. And yet it is an important story to share. It can shed light on the darkness that threatens to keep some stories silenced and too many of us polarized by fear. It's about stereotypes and dismantling them. It's about breaking down walls.

 We are all equal in love. We are created and set free to live our love stories in communities. Sharing our love stories can connect us and make it possible to build a safe place where all people can fulfill our destinies. Or, sadly, love stories can be perverted by fear and turned into the dark force that destroys us along with any hope for a happy ending.

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