Today an old friend called me and we arranged the time to get together for a long overdue coffee. She suggested we meet in her church's coffee shop because she would rather give them her business than a coffee chain, fair enough.
On Sunday our service was about being a GLBTQI (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex) Ally. It was very inspiring, and I realized the many ways I had become more of a quiet and supportive bystander than an actual ally. I thought about the ways in which my silence could be seen as approval.
Welcoming Congregation. It followed a more literal interpretation of the Bible. Then I sat for a moment and thought about all the tiny ways, often without thinking, that we support attitudes and beliefs that can be hurtful to the GLBTQI community. I thought about my friend, a lovely, open, warm woman with whom I have much in common, like being white, straight women with teenage sons. Like being artists, dog lovers and gardeners. Like living and supporting each other through some colossally crappy times together, and I thought if I can't be honest with her, then I really need to examine myself. So I said, respectfully and with compassion, that being an Ally was something that was important to me and I would prefer if we met somewhere other than her church. This actually opened a conversation that we had never had, about the difference between 'welcoming everyone' and a 'welcoming congregation', and while we did not dwell on it, it started a new dialogue between us.
I think it is important to have these conversations. I think it is equally important to remain compassionate and respectful while having them. I did not convert my friend over coffee, that was not my intent, but I did plant a small seed of thought for her do with as she liked, and I practiced compassionately communicating about an issue that is important to me and my GLBTQI friends.
Later I saw this video of Ash Beckham.
She explains brilliantly, and with great humour and wit, some of the ways to be an ally. She talks about the difference between tolerance and acceptance. She has great visuals. She wrote it in response to a "that's so gay" comment she had overheard. She didn't have a conversation with that person that day, but her talk was in front of 850 people and the youtube video has been seen by tens of thousands. You may not be able to speak up every time, but that doesn't mean you don't have a voice, it doesn't mean that you can't speak up with actions, with writing, with music. We all have a voice, and we will be heard when we use it. To quote Ash, "It takes a Village, people"