Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Divine Hammer


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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 6, 2010
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jennifer Luu, Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 410 493 3539

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"(Phoenixville, PA) -- Friday, the Equality Ride, a national bus tour visiting Christian colleges and universities to promote inclusion and safety for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students, started its journey at Valley Forge Christian College (VFCC) in Phoenixville, PA.


...In response to the Equality Ride’s request to engage in real dialogue with students, faculty and administrators at VFCC, officials rejected the Equality Ride and denied them entry to campus. However, since the message of inclusion that the Equality Ride brings is so vital to LGBTQ students living in systematic, hierarchically-imposed silence, shame and guilt, Riders continued on to Valley Forge in hopes of engaging with the campus and the Phoenixville community at large.

'Although VFCC administration chose not to open their hearts, minds or campus to Equality Riders, in the interest of spreading inclusion and affirmation to isolated students at VFCC, we felt that we could work collaboratively with the community to show visible, vocal support as close to school grounds as possible,' explains Rider and VFCC stop organizer Jess Kalup. Equality Riders estimate that between 50 and 75 people participated in a rally in Charlestown Park, which borders the VFCC campus, as well as a vigil on the west border of campus. Participating community members included students from Arcadia University, West Chester University, Eastern University and local church leaders and congregants.

Throughout the day, Equality Riders joined with community members to sing songs of solidarity hoping to spread the message of safety and inclusion to the campus. Members of the religiously oppressive group Repent America were in attendance to protest the rally. Equality Riders invited the protestors to share in constructive dialogue over lunch provided by the community. Despite Repent America’s efforts to stifle the inclusive message of the Equality Ride, the community rally was held to give community members a forum to speak their truths through personal stories reflecting on the harm of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Tears were shed and hearts were mended. Community members, including ex-VFCC students that were expelled for being LGBTQ, thanked the Riders for bringing an LGBTQ-affirming perspective to the campus. The VFCC student handbook states, 'Members of the College community are required to refrain from all forms of sexual immorality including but not limited to, any form of pornography, promiscuity, homosexuality…adultery, rape, sexual violence and abuse…' Policies like the one at Valley Forge create climates that make LGBTQ students feel unsafe and foster environments of hostility and silence. Conversations throughout the day were respectful and productive and went from about 10:00 AM until around 3:30PM.

'From our vigil lines and gatherings on the sidewalks bordering campus that we were banished to, we could see students on campus watching us and wondering about our message. I think the Equality Ride brought a vital affirming voice for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people and hopefully the Equality Ride's visit let the silenced students of Valley Forge Christian College know that they are loved, they are worth it and they do deserve a voice,' says Caitlin MacIntyre, 2010 Equality Ride Director.

Equality Riders will be visiting Philadelphia on Saturday. From 10am-1pm, they will be participating in a clean-up community service project in West Philly through Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia and from 6pm-8pm, they will be having a potluck dinner at the William Way Center in Center City Philadelphia. All are welcome to come and join Riders for discussion. On Sunday, The Equality Ride will visit Imago Dei Metropolitan Community Church in Glen Mills, PA, located at 1223 Middletown Road, to engage in a faith-based, affirming safe space. Service begins promptly at 10:30am.

More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against LGBTQ students. Some schools without explicit policies still foster climates where harassment of LGBTQ students is prevalent. A 2003 survey of 14 American universities found that more than a third of all LGBTQ undergraduates had experienced harassment in the past year.

Since 2006, the Equality Ride has visited more than 50 schools, hosting public forums, participating in panel discussions, and taking part in worship services and Bible studies. The goal is to inspire further conversation and to empower students, faculty, and administrators to make their school welcoming to all students.

The Equality Ride bus is on the road through April 27, 2010. Future stops include:

March 9 - Houghton College - Houghton, NY
March 11 - Affirming community visit - Knoxville, TN

Soulforce Q is the young adult division of Soulforce, a social justice organization that works to end political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people through relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, go to www.equalityride.com."

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So as stated in the Press Release above, Valley Forge Christian College refused to let us on campus and told students that they would be expelled if they came out to talk to us. Then, on Friday morning when we arrived at Charlestown Park, bordering the VFCC campus, fear-based, religiously oppressive group Repent America, was there to greet us. (Visit their website if you are sitting down and don't have any food in your mouth-- it might drop out when your mouth falls agape.) In response to this warm(ed by the threat of hell) Valley Forge welcome, The Equality Ride held. We held hands, two candlelight vigils and a community rally and sang lots of lovey songs with lyrics like, "Love inside of our hearts / Love, and only love, is moving me." Behold:

video

This one's just to show their well-made, very tall signs

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video

The Director of Repent America

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video

"Crossdressing...another element of what homosexuality is attempting to press upon our society..."

I love how we actually stop singing to listen to what he was saying about crossdressing. It was worth it.



Reverend Karla Fleshman being totally and incredibly awesome, as she often has a tendency to be



It's true! That God. What an advocate.


A great thing we heard in training week was the concept that most people can easily show up to conversations that take place on bridges over gaps without a sword. Putting down the sword is one thing and is perhaps fairly easy for some (not all members of Repent America, unfortunately). But who among us ever truly puts down our shields?

I had a meaningful conversation during our day at Charlestown Park with a woman who used a lot of words and talking points to express to me that her purpose and way of life was to exalt her Lord Jesus Christ above all else. I did open myself and my heart up to this woman. I also know that I spent a lot of time vested in words-- her words and what words of mine I was going to use to respond. And I know that words are a place under which I feel safe and comfortable and sometimes hide. (To be fair, she used a LOT of words.) So I know there is more room for me to put down my shield. With my shield partially lowered, I did see her and hear her, which is to say that I saw and heard the absolute surrender to God and Jesus that she works so studiously towards, every moment of every day, with every breath and every step that she takes. And I saw that with that labored, absolute surrender comes a torn burden that consumes her. As a flawed, earthly human, she will never succeed and she will never be good enough. And that work-- that all-consuming, failure-begotten work-- is what makes her feel worthy and worth something. Anything. Talk about repent, America. This woman was brilliant and beautiful. She is brilliant and beautiful. She recited me a poem she'd written about her worldview that she hopes to spread into the hearts of all that she meets, in a cadence that was quite of the emcee variety. So I told her that she should be a hip hop emcee. I also asked her if she loved herself. I was experiencing her in those moments when I spoke to her as so beautiful and I was overwhelmed by it. So I asked her if she loved herself because I was curious to hear her answer and because I wanted to tell her that I loved her and wanted to feel out if she would receive it the way I meant it as a human being, or if she would think I was trying to hit on her and then punch me. Her reply was that she hated the thoughts that came with her flesh and blood body but that she loved when she could feel the God inside herself. So somewhere in there...eventually...I told her that she was beautiful and brilliant and that in that moment, I loved her. Then I had to go eat lunch, so I went to do that while some other Riders spoke to her. She really did use a lot of words and it was often hard for others to get a word in edgewise.

Later, I went to run an errand and before I left, I told her that I might not see her again, that I really appreciated our conversation and asked her if I could give her a hug. She said, "yes."

In a lot of ways, these conversations with Christians intimidate me because I am coming from such a drastically, foundationally different place than most of them. So on one hand, I think, "What do I know, anyway?" Maybe nothing. What I purport to know when I think about that beautiful woman is that even now as I write this, I feel a great ache in my heart as it asks, "But what about the joy?" What about the JOY as you live your life as a vessel of the Divine? A conclusion I came to last year was that one of the times I know I am closest to The Divine is when I make mix CDs for other people. That might sound ridiculous to most people and would probably sound downright blasphemous to the woman I spoke to. But it's so beautiful and right and big inside me when I make art through the creation of a mix. I just want to look at that woman now and say, "Can't you just make something to spend time with God? Emcee one of your kickass poems, perhaps...?" :|

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Information Travels Faster

SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY
March 4th, 2010
Contact: Jennifer Luu, Soulforce Q
410 493 3539
jennifer_luu@equalityride.com


EQUALITY RIDE TO VISIT VALLEY FORGE CHRISTIAN COLLEGE
Young Adults Tour Christian Colleges to Advocate Safety and Inclusion for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Students

What: On March 4th and 5th, the Soulforce Q Equality Ride, a youth-organized bus tour visiting faith-based colleges with policies discriminating against lesbian, gay, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students, will bring a message of inclusion and safety to Valley Forge Christian College (VFCC). The stop at Valley Forge marks the launch of the 2010 Equality Ride. The Riders will be traveling for two months to 16 schools across the country, bringing an affirming message for LGBTQ people. Despite numerous attempts by the Soulforce Q Equality Ride to be allowed on campus to visit and engage in nonviolent dialogue, Valley Forge Christian College officials have told Riders they are not welcome and denied them entry. However, the message of inclusion that the Equality Ride brings is so necessary that Riders will still be visiting Valley Forge in hopes of engaging with the campus and with the Phoenixville community at large. The Equality Ride seeks to provide safe educational settings for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. On March 4th, Riders and residents of Phoenixville will hold a candlelight vigil to illuminate the injustice of VFCC’s discriminatory policies and replace it with light and hope. The following day, March 5th, Riders will again gather with the Phoenixville, PA community at the Valley Forge campus to attempt dialogue and amplify the voices of the LGBTQ students who have been asked to remain silent at Valley Forge Christian College.

Why: More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students. At Valley Forge Christian College the student handbook states, “Members of the College community are required to refrain from all forms of sexual immorality including but not limited to, any form of pornography, promiscuity, homosexuality…adultery, rape, sexual violence and abuse…” Policies like the one at Valley Forge can create a climate that makes LGBTQ students feel unsafe and can foster an environment of hostility and silence.

When: Thursday, March 4th 2010 8:00 PM, Candlelight vigil begins
Friday, March 5th, 2010 10:00 AM, Community gathering

Where: Charlestown Park (on the outskirts of Valley Forge Christian College)

Who: The 18 to 29-year-old Equality Riders are members of Soulforce Q, the young adult division of Soulforce, a national social justice organization. Since 2006, the Equality Ride has visited over 50 schools, hosting public forums, participating in panel discussions, and taking part in worship services and Bible studies. The goal is to inspire further conversation and to empower students, faculty, and administrators to make their school welcoming to all students. The organizers of the Equality Ride use a collaborative approach, writing to college administrators months in advance and inviting them to work together to design programming that examines diverse points of view—including points of view that affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students.

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Soulforce Q is the young adult division of Soulforce, a social justice organization that works to end political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, go to http://www.equalityride.com/.

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In other news, there was an open mic in Phoenixville tonight and we wanted to go, be all up in the community and maybe get a Rider to perform something on the queer side to further our cause and core. I was elected to tell a story and told the one I put together for Sucker For Love. At first, I was utterly baffled by the way different parts of my life intersect, but then it didn't take me long to arrive at "Of Course." Of course I'm spreading my story to an unfamiliar town by way of The Equality Ride. Because "when you really want something, the universe always conspires in your favor." I believe you, Paulo.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Where Do We Go From Here?


Here is the official list of schools The Equality Ride is visiting in 2010! Each rider will have a hand in planning a stop along the ride, so if you have any information and/or resources regarding any of the schools or cities we are visiting, click on the school name and help a rida out! Tell your friends!

StopDateSchoolLocation
March 4Bus departsBaltimore, MD
1March 5Valley Forge Christian CollegePhoenixville, PA
2March 9Houghton CollegeHoughton, NY
March 11Affirming community visitKnoxville, TN
3March 15Oakwood UniversityHuntsville, AL
4March 17Southeastern Baptist Theological SeminaryWake Forest, NC
5March 18Campbell UniversityLillington, NC
6March 22Bethune Cookman UniversityDaytona Beach, FL
7March 25Morehouse CollegeAtlanta, GA
8March 29Belhaven UniversityJackson, MS
9March 31Mississippi CollegeClinton, MS
April 3-4EasterAustin, TX
10April 6Baylor UniversityWaco, TX
11April 7-8Hardin-Simmons UniversityAbilene, TX
12April 9Abilene Christian UniversityAbilene, TX
13April 14Southwest Baptist UniversityBolivar, MO
14April 16Bethel CollegeMishawaka, IN
15April 21Union CollegeLincoln, NE
16April 23Malone UniversityCanton, OH

Google Map of 2010 Equality Ride Route

Monday, January 25, 2010

In Circles


I took a class in college called Psychology of Women and Gender. I recently remembered that our class put together a book of our own personal writings called In Our Own Words, and realized that my 2003 contribution is incredibly relevant to my upcoming 2010 adventure! Of course it is. My 28 year-old self smiles upon my 21 year-old self:

Love is All You Need
Jennifer K. Luu (Version 2003)

Am I any less of a woman because I do not fall in love with men? I have never asked myself that question until just now. Am I any less of a woman because I do not wear dresses except for on special occasions? That seems like a silly thing to ask. But I think it brings up a good question: what does it mean to be a woman? What defines womanhood? People who consider themselves to be open-minded in our society strive to do certain things:
  • They strive to blur the connection between masculinity and manhood, and the connection between femininity and womanhood. (Some men can be feminine and some women can be masculine, after all.)
  • They strive to blur the lines between sexuality, gender, biological sex, femininity and masculinity. (Some men are straight; some men are gay. Some women are straight; some women are lesbians. Some men and women are neither gay nor straight. Some lesbians are feminine; some lesbians are masculine. Some straight men are feminine; some straight men are masculine. Some people feel like they are women, but they have penises. Some people feel like men, but they have vaginas. You get the point.)

So again, I return to my question: what does it mean to be a woman? In my life, I strive to acknowledge differences, embrace differences and celebrate differences. What makes me different from a man? Should that question be considered invalid? Are we all just one big pot of genderless, raceless individuals with no inherent differences among us? Are all the differences we consider as a society to be "inherent" really just conditioned by an elaborate, complex, huge societal system that has been in place too long for us to notice it? Bleh. These questions are big, and ones that I will make no attempt to address here. Because I'll tell you one thing that makes me, personally, different from a man: I can have babies. A man cannot.

I enjoy children very much and I have seven nephews and nieces who are the gems of my life. I love them more than they know. I am a romantic lady and I am a lesbian. I am a romantic lesbian. I want to fall in love with a lady and make a baby with her. The thought of falling in love with a lady, giving her me, and getting to experience her in all of her entirety and beauty, in our lovemaking, and creating life from our love, is pretty much the most beautiful thing I could ever imagine. I mean, creating life from love. Wow. The problem is, I cannot do that. It is physically and biologically impossible for me to make love to a woman and for either of us to become pregnant. Sigh. This fact has caused me a good deal of strife in my life.

When I was 15, my then-Mormon sister threw argument after argument at me as to why homosexuality is evil. One of them was simply, "the parts don't fit." "True," I thought, "...if you believe that the point of sex is to procreate." I do not. A lot of parts of Genesis in The Bible do. I do not. I believe that making love to someone should be the ultimate realization of your love for him or her. If a baby comes out of that-- beautiful. The thing is, babies do not always come into the world under those conditions. People abuse this gift they have been given-- the ability to procreate-- and it pains and frustrates me. Just because I cannot create life out of my love for a woman does not mean our love is wrong or evil. The ability to procreate does not validate our love. The ability to procreate does not validate a heterosexual encounter. There is rape and there is procreation as a result of pure lustful sex for pleasure. Are those acts not wrong? I think they are.

The underlying thing in any sexual encounter that makes it beautiful and, to use the overused Western word, "right," is love. I want to make a baby with my lady and I can't. I physically cannot. That is too bad. But that does not make us wrong. Heterosexual people can make babies with or without love. That does not make it right. A baby created from love has only good things in store for it because it will be loved for the rest of its beautifully wonderful life. My ladyfriend for life will not make me pregnant and I will not make her pregnant. Women worry about how they are going to balance careers and lives with motherhood, and so do I. But I also worry about how my lady and I will even bring a little one into our lives. It is a decision that is a long way off, seeing as how I first have to find a ladyfriend who can tolerate me for the rest of her life. But when I stress out about this, or people challenge my life and being with their views-- religious or otherwise-- I always come around and know that I will be OK. I know that I will be OK because I love. And in the end, for me, love is all that matters.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Train In Vein


I don't know. There's too much goodness in my life and I don't really know how to explain it or really, how to even experience it. I need time to process things! And lately, there's been this pattern in my life where one AMAZING thing that I am so incredibly grateful for happens that I can't hardly believe is happening to me and then WHILE that thing is happening, ANOTHER equally amazing thing happens! What is this?! All of this stuff to be thankful for is too much for me to handle! I'm going to explode with gratitude!

This blog is called Advance Directive and I've never officially stated the inspiration for that. It largely/entirely revolves around the Pixar masterpiece WALL-E in which an adorable old-school robot falls for a new wave, shiny robot. As robots, they all have their personal directives-- the thing they were made to do in the world. Their mission, their purpose, their reason. Much like us non-robots. So I started the blog and called it Advance Directive because that's what I want for the world. I want to advance my own directive and I want you to advance your directive. Through the individual advancements of our own directives and the collective advancement of the collective directive, love and humanity shall reign free. Or something like that. The acts of sharing and writing are part of my directive. Plus, the term conjures an Advance Medical Directive for some, (like for those of us that have worked in a doctor's office for four years), which is fine by me because I like the idea that the people left should consult these words once I'm gone.

As previously stated a little differently in other cyber locations, one of the many gifts that the Universe gave me last year was that I learned about something called Equality Ride from my television. Turns out that it is a bus full of amazing people that travels around the country to Christian institutions of higher learning with discriminatory and/or dangerous LGBTQ policies and climates, to engage hearts and minds about oppression of varying shapes, colors and sizes. LGBTQ oppression is the hand we're leading with to feel around in the darkness of prejudice people justify with Christ, but all oppression is inextricably linked-- a concept called intersectionality. And so my blog post has begun. The reason why I'm starting to blog about Equality Ride now when I don't leave until February 25th is that I've just returned from a training week in Austin, TX. It was-- how do you say-- off the freakin' chain.

We talked a lot in Austin about The Bible and how it is used in ways that encourage a culture of inequality. There was a lot about Bible verses being taken out of context through truncating the story, thus the meaning, and the fact that The Bible has been translated from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, thus also muddying the meaning. It was also written by a bunch of people that weren't Jesus or God. Not to mention the fact that there are multiple versions/translations of The present-day Bible. What you find in The Bible is determined by what you're looking for and how you hold it once you find it. Here's one of my favorite citations (truncated, to be fair, so if you take issue, let's talk about it) that pr/teaches love, justice and equality! Maybe even an Equality Ride? Imagine that! "Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. Again, if you do good only to those who do good to you, what credit is there in that? Even sinners do as much. And if you lend only where you expect to be repaid, what credit is there in that? Even sinners lend to each other to be repaid in full. But you must love your enemies and do good, and lend without expecting any return..." [Luke 6:31-35] Also, I just opened my Bible to a random page and found this: "Awake, awake! Arm of the Lord, put on strength; awake as you did in days of old, in ages long past. Was it not you who hacked Rahab in pieces and ran the dragon through?" [Isaiah 51:9] Clearly, Jesus and God want all of us to wake up, hack Rahab in pieces and run the dragon through! And lastly, an amazing thing that our Bible trainers reminded us of is that Jesus was about as radical as they come. People pretty much thought he was batshit crazy back in the day, and there he went with his 30-something year-old self, preaching love and healing people like a champion. Dude was a serious renegade.

So now back to intersectionality and systems of oppression. If, as a member of an oppressed group, I take a stand against that oppression and decide that I will work against it, it doesn't make any sense to work only for my own personal interests. It doesn't make any sense for me to only fight for marriage equality when there are other queer people losing their jobs for being queer or killing themselves for being queer because THAT'S how much they hate themselves. (If you are unfamiliar with my usage of the word "queer," it goes like this: "queer" used to be a derogatory term aimed at LGBTQ people. It has since been liberatingly reclaimed by LGBTQ people to generally refer to that which is not heteronormative. The non-heteronormative part is why I like to use it-- it's shorter than LGBTQ and also rhymes with "cheer.") The people within my oppressed group that are more oppressed than I are more oppressed for reasons that inevitably have to do with issues of money/class and race. That is how I understand intersectionality. It's all connected. And it doesn't make any damn sense to forget about other oppressed peoples while I work my own way out of oppression because that doesn't do anything to end oppression-- it only ends MY oppression. It only moves oppression around-- shifts it from one group to another. Meanwhile, the dominant group stays dominant while the system they sit atop says, "suckeeeers!!!" And by forgetting and/or not recognizing the other oppressed, I become the oppressor. I'm not down with this. This is what "no one is free when others are oppressed" means to me. No one is better than anyone else.

So yeah. We talked a lot about intersectionality and systems of oppression. We watched The Color of Fear. We had a guest trainer named Paula who works with two organizations in Austin, INCITE!: Women of Color Against Violence and Mamas of Color Rising. I developed a pretty substantial crush on Paula in the two hours that I was with her. After those beautiful two hours, I thanked her for coming, told her she was great, shook her hand and gave her a hug. She told me I was great. Now if only I can find a woman who isn't in a committed, child-bearing relationship and who doesn't live in Austin, TX to have an interaction like that with, I'll be all set! Talking about oppression messes me up. It generally leaves my chest tied in a large, knotted lump. Work around general societal oppression to include racism, sexism and classism is mindblowing, earth-shattering stuff that I was exposed to for the first time in college. So experiencing it again this past week, I thought of who in my life I could discuss, share and explore it with. It really became evident to me how much I want/need it in my life more regularly and how I want/need people close to me to share the experience with. When it blew my mind and shattered my earth in college, I didn't really have anyone to do that with. Boo. Overall, the pervasive theme for me as I dealt with these issues this intensely for the first time in so long was a constant consciousness of how privileged I am within our country's systems of oppression. I am one lucky bitch.

And I officially join the movement towards equALLity. The 2010 Equality Ride will be visiting 16 schools. Each rider is assigned to a school to envision and implement what zh/s/he wants hir/her/his stop to look like. My partner for the ride is Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, TX! Several riders have also been tasked with creating presentations for the various schools to choose from. I am one of the several. The tentative presentations we are offering are: "LGBTQ Myths and Truths," "Christianity and Justice" and "Bridging the Gap." And lastly, all riders have roles that they will be living on the bus. I have been deemed Media Director! Yikes. Any and all ideas, suggestions and resources are welcome.

Thank you for reading this now and thank you in advance for following along in the months to come. Holy shit.

P.S. While in Austin, I got to ride in a 2010 Honda Insight to a place called Sao Paulo's where I enjoyed a delicious Brazilian dinner with a new Equality Rider friend, his dear lesbian friend who is with child, Dear Lesbian Friend With Child's partner and Amazing Pregnant Lesbian Couple's other friend. I don't know a lot of lesbian couples that are pregnant and shacked up, living the creation of a family in such a gorgeous way. Actually, I didn't know any, prior to meeting this one. It was indescribably rewarding for me to see such a shining example right before my very eyes. And I ate with them! I know that they really exist because I saw them eat food! Across from me! That family has no idea how much their mere existence means to all that is me. Life is beautiful.

https://www.soulforce.org/jennifer_luu