In January, I was invited to join the United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) Faith Coalition by my friend and colleague in faith, the coalition chair, Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer. Mike has the responsible swagger of one who would never invite another into any initiative that would be a waste of time. Apart from that, two other vital components peeked my interest making the invite irresistible, namely Faith and AIDS.

In my intersectional work as LGBTQ and Intercultural Programs Manager at the Unitarian Universalist Association, addressing the HIV epidemic is essential, especially as a queer clergy of color living with the virus. The USCA Faith Coalition seemed like a necessary alliance. I began by joining monthly Zoom conference calls, listening intently while interjecting rarely as my fellow partners determined the theme, solicited sponsors, designed the logo, and crafted the agenda. It took me a few months to figure out how I could be most helpful.

Then in May it was announced that there would be a panel on “Engaging the Lived Experiences from the Communities We Serve.” I immediately volunteered because I believe stigma is the greatest barrier to Getting to Zero. The greatest way to reduce stigma is people in positions of power and privilege living with HIV and AIDS sharing our lived experiences in the communities we serve.

Today, alongside HIV activist Daniel D. Driffin, co-founder of Thrive S.S. I had the opportunity to do just that as moderator Cary Goodman of Balm in Gilead posed the following questions.

Was there a moment of truth where you had to reconcile your faith with your diagnosis?

Yes! When I was diagnosed in 2006 I was in seminary about to become a chaplain in the US Air Force. Becoming HIV positive forced me to have to decide whether to pursue ministry or drop out of seminary and military service. I chose the latter. I believed that if I wanted to live, I needed to leave the church. I was right. Leaving the conservative evangelical church allowed me to prioritize my health, then later find a faith that would affirm my HIV status. The journey was treacherous as life with HIV without faith would eventually prove to be just as intolerable as life in a faith hostile to HIV.

How has living in the rural south impacted you now that you are living in a metropolitan area?

I was living in Columbia, SC when I was diagnosed in 2006. I believed that if I wanted to live, I needed to leave the south. I was right. Leaving a southern city with limited access to social services, support networks, and a living wage saved my life. Relocating to the urban cities of Chicago, D.C., and eventually New York blessed me with the privilege of housing, health care, and nutrition allowing me to cope with the trauma of my existential crisis. Daniel Driffin said it best, “Housing is medicine. Employment is medicine. If I feel that I am unworthy, then a pill won’t fix that.” These vital social support services are what makes HIV no longer a death sentence, more so than the science of life saving medications. Faith communities must advocate for social support services be available for all people living with HIV to reduce the threat of stigma and eliminate transmissions.

What do you think the faith community needs to know?

It is our fault as people of faith that the virus is what it is in the world. American religion, both liberal and conservative, is responsible for the rapid spread of AIDS in the 1980s and the 500,000 deaths by 1990. The belief that any sex beyond heterosexual monogamy is unorthodox has lead to 36.7 million living with HIV today. Because of faith, society has no language for sex and sexual health. Because of faith, the LGBTQ community has been told AIDS is God’s curse for being who we are. Because of faith, sex workers and intravenous drug users remain in the shadows where there is high risk of transmission and limited access to treatment. Faith communities must accept responsibility for the shame and the death that has resulted by developing responsible sex positive theologies that affirm the inherit worth and dignity of every human being.

This is the work of the USCA Faith Coalition. Every year, we gather the day before USCA to discuss and develop strategies to strengthen the capacity of houses of worship and faith-based organizations who are engaged, or wish to engage, in efforts to end the HIV epidemic.

On the one hand, as Unitarian Universalists who believe in the the inherit worth and dignity of every person and the justice, equity and compassion in human relations we are privileged with the best hope of developing a responsible theology and sexual ethic that will support the Getting to Zero movement. On the other hand, as a faith steeped in classism and white supremacy conflated with a liberal progressive theology, Unitarian Universalism in a cautionary tale for how difficult it will be for all faith communities to live up to its own best values and ethics, even with the most open of theologies.

Stay tuned via Twitter @uua_lgbtq for more update from USCA and the lived experiences of people living with HIV.

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img_9018 Truth Isn’t Truth, or Is It???

In all my years of following religious conservatism, never would I ever have imagined that truth would be accepted as not truth, also known as false.

On Sunday, on Meet the Press, Rudy Giuliani, while defending Donald J. Trump, blurted out “Truth isn’t truth” as a means of explaining how two seemingly credible sources could so convincingly argue two contradictory accounts of the same conversation.

Without delving too deeply into exactly which truth isn’t true, I’m tempted to argue that Rudy is right. The presupposition that truth isn’t truth has been the basis of American political discourse since its founding.

The truth that the New World was dispossessed prior to European settlement is a truth that isn’t true. The truth that indentured servitude was a sovereign right bestowed upon white landowning males is a truth that isn’t true. The truth that God ordained man to be head over woman whose exclusive duty was to serve him and bear his offspring was a truth that isn’t true. That men who lie with men as one would lie with a woman and that women who lie with women as one would lie with a man would each be doomed to eternal damnation is a truth that isn’t true.

Indeed, the landfill of American virtuosity it littered with truths that aren’t truth. From white picket fences to apple pie to baseball and rock-n-roll, are all truths that are only true for a select few.

Last week, a naked truth that we all wish was not true was revealed. Scores of Catholic priests conspired to rape and abuse countless little boys and little girls over the course of many generations, exposed the truth that sexual anorexia in the name of religion is detrimental to psychological and spiritual health, not to mention demonic and may very destroy all of Christendom.

The lie that truth isn’t truth is the spiritual truth peddled by religious conservatism since it’s inception with imperial rule. Such truths proclaim that first peoples aren’t first. That black people aren’t people. That God’s chosen people aren’t chosen. And that Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life.

Thus Giuliani’s revelation that truth isn’t truth is not such a radical departure from the canon of heresy that is the bedrock of religious conservatism. It is quietly preached in the halls of congress as lies are abided so that religious falsehood can be exacted in the courts.

The truth that life is sacred is betrayed by the lie that sexual violence is inconsequential. The truth that God hates fags is betrayed by the lie that the richest one percent are entitled to more wealth than the ninety-nine. The truth that global warming is not man-made is betrayed by the lie that Mexicans are murders and rapists. The truth that gun ownership is a god-given right is betrayed by the lie that parents seeking asylum for their children is not. The truth that Barack Obama was not born in America is betrayed by the truth that he was.

The lie that truth isn’t true is perhaps the truest untruth Giuliani has ever uttered for it reveals more about Make America Great Again religious conservatism than we can ever imagine.

The lie the truth isn’t truth should shock and surprise all who seek truth, justice, and the American Dream. But since so much of the American Dream is just a Dream we have become accustomed to trusting in truths that are untrue. As such, Giuliani’s lie that truth isn’t truth will soon be accepted as mere rhetorical relativism used to justify supporting an administration that is remaining true to its promises to make America hate again in the name of God!

Arrested for Justice!

They explained what to do and what not to do. Everything seemed so “organized.” It all made sense. I thought I understood how it was supposed to go. But my heart still pounded and my throat had a lump. They warned us about prior convictions. My mind kept wondering if I had any convictions…or even had been arrested. I couldn’t remember whether or not I had. My deep-seated distrust in the criminal justice system as a black, gay, HIV-positive man was beginning to show. All the reassurances in the world could not soothe the butterflies fluttering in my stomach.

Prior to today my record was squeaky clean, besides the traffic tickets that keep being hailed as the example of “no big deal.” But reminded me of all the times I thought I might die from a traffic stop. And all the times I thought I might be criminalized because of my sexuality. And all the times my HIV status has been used to dehumanized my black body. Yet, I chose to be arrested.

I chose to be arrested alongside the Missouri state delegate. He is a white, straight, food service worker earning $9 per hour. He is forced to chose between child support payments and healthcare. Because 50% of his pay goes to child support. He is forced to live without healthcare. Our lives could not have been further apart, but we chose to be arrested together today.

It wasn’t that bad. We chanted. We sang. We were warned. We surrendered. What I had feared all my life and sworn to avoid, was not that bad. And maybe that’s the problem. Just maybe the fear of being arrested keeps us from doing the work of justice. Perhaps the system is set up to keep the people just complacent enough to do nothing.

As I sat there on the grassy Capital lawn, behind police tape and steel barricades with like-minded strangers for justice, I thought about those who have not organized, those who did not know what to do. As I looked down at my plastic handcuffs, relieved that they were not real, even though they were….it was difficult not to act out. The meekness of the police was provocative. Their soft spokenness, their generosity of spirit up juxtaposed to the violence of state sanctioned poverty made it difficult to comply. The violence suffered by the least of these, created a deep-seated rage, prompting me to cry out.

What do we want? Justice!

When do we want it? Now!

If we don’t get it? Shut it down!

If we don’t get it? Shut it down!

If we – don’t – get – it?

Shut it down!

No! But the question is true. America is caught between a truth and a lie. The truth is: we are the land of the free, the home of the brave. The lie is: we are the land of the free, the home of the  brave. The truth is: we are a nation founded by slave trading barbarians who happened to be brilliant enough to enshrine their personal ambition to achieve ultimate freedom into the Constitution of the United States of America. The truth is: mortal lies were executed to secure said freedom and justified by the ends that such lies would achieve. The truth is: the American liberty enschrined in the Constitution was etched on the backs of more than 13 million blacks bodies. The lie is: truth must be sacrificed so that the sanctity of freedom and democracy might be preserved. The truth is: that same lie that brokered black bodies continues to undermine the Constitution that liberated those whom it never had in mind. The lie is: the truth must be suppressed so that the noble ideals of freedom and democracy can be achieved and experienced. The truth is: a land that is truly free is only free because it has told the truth. The lie is: those who have sworn by conscience to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth are betraying the ideals of freedom and liberty by doing so. The truth is: the freedom and liberty that has made America great has only come when such people have withstood the lies of tyranny, despotism, and nihilism…without compromise. Ironically, during an age when America is arguably in its freest state, black Americans are being asked to be true to America, by way of a lie. This lie says that the only way to be a true American is to stand in silent complicity to her crimes. The lie is: telling the truth through peaceful protest is unpatriotic. The lie is: black Americans are ungrateful to the America that rations her grace to only a few. But the truth is: every time black America tells the truth about America, America only becomes more true, be it abolition, Jim Crow, Ferguson, or Trump. Indeed, the very existence of a black America exposes the American lie and keeps her accountable to her many truths that have become self evident. Is America a lie? No. But the notion that telling the truth about America is un-American is the greatest lie ever told…and no lie can live forever.

Source: The Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide for Writing About Transgender People

Brilliant. Thanks Alex Kapitan!

Radical Copyeditor

Introduction (Read This First)

A style guide for writing about transgender people is practically an oxymoron. Style guides are designed to create absolutes—bringing rules and order to a meandering and contradictory patchwork quilt of a language. Yet there are no absolutes when it comes to gender. That’s why this is a radical copyeditor’s style guide. Radical copyediting isn’t about absolutes; it’s about context and care.

There are profound reasons for why the language that trans people use to describe ourselves and our communities changes and evolves so quickly. In Western culture, non-trans people have for centuries created the language that describes us, and this language has long labeled us as deviant, criminal, pathological, unwell, and/or unreal.

As trans people have fought for survival, we have also fought for the right to describe ourselves in our own language and to reject language that criminalizes, pathologizes, or invisibilizes us. Just as there…

View original post 2,667 more words

Are they? Are they? Are the allies of rabid racists “Fine People?” Yes, according to our Fine President. Those cheering alongside racists, fascists, neo-Nazi, white supremacists, white nationalists, and the KKK are “Fine People.”

When he first said this, I was quite surprised. How could he say such a thing. Right there in the hallowed lobby of Trump Tower, in front of those gold-plated elevators, steps away from Fifth Avenue? I was aghast. Surely the President of the United States of America did not equate racists with anti-racists, fascists with anti-fascists, KKK with anti-KKK.

But why on earth am I surprised? This man has said and done the worst things. Worst than any publicly praised political figure in my lifetime. “Grab em by the pussy.” “Mexican rapists.” “Little Marco.” “Crooked Hillary.” Ever since the day he descended the escalators of that same lobby, Mr. Trump has said the most appalling things. Things that many would never say. Things that we all think and may say in the most intimate of spaces. Such things that haven’t been said out loud beyond the go-go bar nor HBO in a generation. Things that would make Sarah Silverman blush, he has dared to utter into the living rooms of the ever faithful American religious right wing conservative, and beyond.

But perhaps that’s why I’m quite surprised. It’s quite surprising to see such sedition in plain sight, with my very own eyes…and hear them with my very own ears. I’ve heard of them through the lips of many others, as they lamented the water hoses, the police dogs, the lynch mobs, the death camps. For generations “Fine People” have been committing evil atrocities, prompting equally “Fine People” to rise up against them.

The “Fine People” of the North, came down to fight the “Fine People” of the South in order to put an end to slavery. The “Fine People” of the Allied armies, joined forces to defeat the “Fine People” of Italy, Germany, and Japan. The “Fine People” of the Civil Rights Movement led a non-violent movement against the “Fine People” of the Jim Crow South, many of whom held many a fine picnic just beneath the lynching tree. The “Fine People” of the United States of America invaded the “Fine People” of Vietnam, and the “Fine People” of Saddam’s Iraq, and the “Fine People” of Bin Laden’s Taliban who weaponized a plane full of “Fine People” bringing down two towers filled with “Fine People” on September 11th, 2001. All very “Fine People.”

Everyday I live and work and worship with “Fine People,” living “Fine Lives” longing to hear the words, “Everything is just fine.” “You are doing everything well and right. You are in no way and by no means implicated in anything that is evil or undesirable or inhumane. You are powerless to do anything beyond the many good things you are already doing. You are fine. Everything is just fine. Or is it?

What’s most surprising about Trump’s charge that there were “Fine People” on both sides, is its brilliance. It’s brilliant because, as Americans, we all just wanna be “Fine People.” This has become the bar for all of western humanity. Mr. Trump himself was accused of having a family of “fine people” by the very opponent that he accused of paying off her husband’s rape victim. Many voted for President Trump, under the assumption that he was a “Fine Person” with “Fine Children.” In 2014, #BlackLivesMatter protested “fine white people” who deeply believe New York’s Finest are policing just fine, thank you very much, despite the unarmed death of the not-so-fine black body of Eric Gardner. Almost all of the policemen who committed these murders have been acquitted because they are “Fine Policemen” called to protect and serve “Fine White People.”

The problem with “Fine People” is that they are rarely fine, “bless they’re hearts.” “Fine People” are really restless, fearful people willing to do anything to reach the not-so-high bar of feeling just fine, thank you very much. “Fine People” are willing to forego just about anything to remain just fine. “Fine People” are only willing to tweet the bare minimum to insure that everything remains fine. “Fine People” are satisfied with waiting out the rage so that we can get on with the fine business of representative government. “Fine People” are only moved to action when the immediate luxuries of they’re “Fine Lives” are frightened and frustrated.

More than anything, “Fine people” want us all to believe that everything is fine so that those of who are far from fine, will do the least amount necessary to bring about any real  and lasting social change. For this reason, both the fascists and the Antifa were far from fine in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017. One side was evil, the other courageous, each committed to fulfilling its respective agenda: one, the complete annihilation of non-white races…the other, the full equality and inclusion of all people…both by any means necessary.