It's big news for us, because it means when we say our vows next September we'll be able to do it on Oregon soil--or, in our case, sand, because we want to be married on the beach. I immediately have to go lock myself in a bathroom and cry a little bit, because up until this moment I wasn't convinced it was really going to happen.
Sure, gay marriage is legal in Washington state, just across the river, but I want to be married here. THIS is the place I call home, THIS is the soil that nourishes me. Our love was born in the coffee houses and brewpubs of Portland, it grew and deepened on Oregon beaches and in Oregon houses and apartments. Most importantly, this is where we have begun the process of building a life together. And though I wasn't born or raised here, this is the only place that's ever felt like home.
So this is where I want to marry her, in front of the community that has celebrated with us and sustained us, both before we met and after we fell in love. How can I not have a little happy cry?
At home after work, I realize this is a moment that calls for gratitude. I sit and consider how best to say thank you to the universe for this miracle, but nothing feels big enough. In my tottering steps toward spiritual renewal I have not yet found rituals and offerings that sing to me; mostly I feel like I did in the first years of learning about paganism, like I know nothing at all.
I don't know what to do, but the day is beautiful and I've promised myself to take my paganism outdoors whenever I can. So I step out to my tiny pocket of a garden and clear a few weeds from around my herbs. The lavender is budding, slender green stems bearing tiny green beads rising over the soft foliage, and its fragrance washes over me as my hands brush its leaves. The lemon thyme, too, offers up its scent, and I breathe deep. I straighten and look up at the sky, its colors fading and washing out as the sun passes from view, and say thank you. A whispered prayer feels inadequate, but it's all I can think to offer right now.
Because my joy isn't unadulterated. The subject of love and sexuality is a tough one for me, as it carries the weight of years of conflict with my fundamentalist Christian mother. Even as my home state has offered its legal recognition of relationships like mine, I know that unless a miracle happens my mother will never accept my partner or our commitment to each other. Between my chosen spiritual path and my innate sexuality, my relationship with my mother has been completely severed for two years now. I've accepted our estrangement as the price of being able to live my life and speak my truth, but I haven't really made peace with her rejection.
So today's beauty is overwhelming, partly because of its enormity, and partly because of its bittersweet complexity. I'm reminded that authentic love demands much of each of us--and sometimes we choose to step away from it because we're not ready for its thorny side. The failure of the deep and tangled love between my mother and me is a mystery I might never understand. But I can't let this failure prevent me from striving to make love work elsewhere; and in the meantime, I can try to forgive both my mother and myself, and I can pray for a miracle.
And I can be thankful on days, like today, when love wins. So in the twilight at the edge of the garden bed I offer the only thing I have--my confused, conflicted, hopeful heart. I promise the gods and myself that I will keep loving and struggling, however much it hurts. I promise myself to carry the power of this moment and hold it tight when things look bleak. It still doesn't feel like enough: but I remind myself that real love, with its inevitable side-effect of being vulnerable and often broken, is at least an offering that's unquestionably mine to give.
As 2013 draws to a close, there’s a good deal to reflect upon. Many members of our Community have passed on, relationships have changed and babies have been born. Within the military, quite a few changes have occurred as well. In February, the retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta extended gay benefits to service members and their families as best he could due to DOMA still being on the books at the time. And when DOMA was repealed in June, the Pentagon was able to use the words marriage and spouse with the inclusion of gay and lesbian couples. Sadly, it took until last month overseas military installations were open for things such as ration privileges due to where they were stationed, such as in South Korea. And too, while many more states, even Utah, are now marriage equality states, it is still not enough to make marriage equality federally recognized as the law of the land (read: Constitutional amendment).
Also, I would be amiss if I failed to mention other forms of equality within the military, especially pertaining to women. Not only are women open to train for full-fledged combat positions (though we won’t see women in direct Infantry until probably 2016), but also, rape and assaults within the military are finally being taken seriously. Men and women who have been attacked are reporting at an all-time high, which may actually be a good thing for a couple of reasons: For one thing, victims feel justice will actually be served instead wrapped in red tape, so they are reporting them. And for another, the reports that do occur are actually making it onto official ledgers to be counted.
For our veterans however, pension trimming is still in the works. While it’s true the compensation is bloated, as people live longer and more families have dealt with unfathomable losses, it is my opinion those who were promised cost of living increases should be grandfathered in. That’s what people signed up for. Yes, veterans are able to retire before their 40th birthdays, which doesn’t look good to the bean counters on paper, but the 20 (and more!) years these men and women served are deserving of every penny. And I say that across the board, even for those who since have moved on to lucrative civilian careers or even won the lottery. It’s no different than Social Security; you put into it, you get out of it, whether or not you can afford to live without it.
Overall, I am satisfied with the progresses that have been made, and, make no mistake, these changes are coming rapidly. I would like to see this momentum carried on through 2014 in avalanche speed for overall equality and fairness. My hope for 2014, besides the aforementioned, is to see Pagans joining the ranks of military chaplaincy, which has been discussed at length for several years. I have mentioned this many times before on Warriors & Kin, and with the efforts of so many people including Patrick McCollum and Circle Sanctuary, perhaps I can be writing this article next year congratulating those who have been accepted for enlistment.
I have asked others within the Pagan Community what their hopes are for 2014, and here is what they had to say:
As a member of the LGBT community and a Navy vet, I have been pleasantly surprised to see the military leading the Pride Parade on the way to equality. I would like to see this forward thinking continue into and beyond 2014. – Marty Townsend
Being a wife of a now former Marine, my wish for 2014 is to have all military members know how much they are appreciated, to the injured vets a quick and speedy recovery, and to all of those serving overseas a joyous homecoming. – Faith Ham
A chance for each of us to see real significant improvement in our daily lives, so that we are each in a better situation and better able to help one another. – Star Foster
What are your hopes? Please feel free to construct your own thoughts and share. And yes, I do indeed thank you for your service and sacrifice. It is always an honor and privilege to learn from you, share with you and yes, including at the day job renting apartments, work alongside you, too! Take care and many blessings to you and yours. And, may 2014 be a healthy and successful one for you all.
Hello everyone, and welcome back to another posting! This month, I wanted to take some time to share with you all just a smidge of what I experienced at this year's Pagan Spirit Gathering. Honestly, I would need about twenty generalized categories to even come close to tapping on all the fun I had and knowledge gained, so it's a good thing I'm pretty narrowed down here.
One of the nice things about PSG, in comparison to other Pagan festivals I've attended, is the community love and support for our Warriors. At PSG, there are many areas dedicated for people to commune together, combining that reverence and mirth notion depending on the need. One of the areas, just past the entrance gate, is the Warriors Center. Each morning, active duty and retired military personnel gathered to meet with one another, with last Thursday morning being a special gathering: The Warrior Blessing Ritual.
I'm going to be completely honest here - I've been Pagan for nearly two decades, and I've never had that "peak moment" during rituals, in groups or alone, so many gleefully share. I joke it's because I'm like M&Ms with the hard candy shell but with the sweet center. I've never even been moved before during a ritual, at least not fully. Sure, there's been parts of rituals I've thoroughly enjoyed, and there have been many, many times where my spellcasting worked - sometimes a little too well. (Kind of like the time I really wanted to have a summer off, and I broke my ankle at work just before Memorial Day and collected workman's comp until the cast came off just past Labor Day. Fun times! Oh yes that was! Uh huh.). But this ritual, all I can say is WOW! There wasn't a dry eye in the house, and when I say I was moved, I'm talking that scene in Old Yeller.
I posted quite a few pictures this morning over at Pagan Newswire Collective, which you can see that article by clicking here. But what I would like to share here is the one on one time I got with many of the Warriors themselves - their stories and back stories.
One of the folks who led the ritual had served for 29 years, much longer than even required in order to retire with full benefits. Out of curiosity, I had asked him not so much why he served so long, but how he was able to do what he did while also honoring his beliefs. The simple answer I got was he separated the two to the best of his ability. Many of us separate our jobs from our home lives, as very few of us work where we live and vice versa. For me as a civilian, keeping a military career separate from my daily living seems like a daunting task to say the least. However, I can see how it might make things easier to compartmentalize, especially when the vocal majority in charge have been bad about being tolerant of anything other than evangelical Christianity during his service and even today.
Which has me thinking too about how difficult it must have been for gays and lesbians before the repeal of DADT - having to keep their core selves secret. It also has me thinking what a release it must be now that DOMA has been repealed, granting gay couples the same benefits hetero couples have enjoyed for so long. While I'm no stranger to seeing gay couples out in the open, having close family of the orientation, PSG taught me to further see past the outside and see the inside - seeing just two hearts beating as one, freely walking hand in hand without any judgment whatsoever, making breakfast, scolding their children, washing the dishes together.
The dishes part especially: One of the things I enjoy doing while I'm at a festival is taking some time at night to walk around with my lantern and see things for what they really are. It's something I can't do in the city, walking alone without looking over my shoulder, and I relish every moment. While getting lost in Rainbow Camp, I happened to catch a couple in their pop-up trailer washing the dishes together, talking about the day's events and what they were planning on doing the next day. I didn't mean to lurk, so I kept going, but hey - their shades were open - so I took an extra second to notice. That could have easily been Ron and I, flicking soapy water at each other, chatting, laughing, and getting a thankless job done, but they were two men - a gay couple. It had me wishing more people could have had this candid view.
Which that has me thinking, too: A couple years back, I had predicted the repeal of DOMA would take effect in March of 2014, so yeah, that's one pool I'm happy to have lost. To me, that indicates once the new policies take effect, gay couples will simply be couples, living in the same housing, raising their children together, marrying in the same chapels and traveling to the same posts and bases. That to me sounds like the definition of a truly cohesive unit.
Perhaps I wasn't 100% wrong on the pool date though; perhaps March, 2014 will just be the finalization of DOMA, that all loving couples can marry in any state they choose. That's almost a year from now, which is time enough to get the pols together and make all marriages, gay or straight, to become known as simply marriages. I know some folks are happy about marriages going back to stateside choice, but the way I see it, who you fall in love with isn't of our choosing. As long as both parties are of consenting age, and hey, I kind of like the idea of states that bar kin to marry each other, then I fail to see the problem.
Ron and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary Thursday, a day off from the repeal. We timed our wedding date to be one week after the solstice and one week before the 4th of July so we could "keep the party going" for a solid two weeks every year. Also, our wedding bands are actually tattoos, because we wanted to express our lifelong commitments to each other, though I will admit I was apprehensive at first about them being "everlasting job-stoppers". (The underlying, inside jokes of the wedding rings and the date was so we'd never forget the dates, and we couldn't take the rings off while we were out with our friends at the bar.) That too has me wondering about the secretive commitments gay couples have kept and whether or not they were planning on also "keeping the party going" with a grand fireworks finale of their own.
So with all that said, how will you be celebrating the 4th this year (if you're American, of course)? Sure, it's the holiday in which we celebrate the birth of our country, but I think this year, I might think of it as something a little bit more.
Many blessings to you and yours.
One of my day jobs is for the Minnesota Legislature. Not one individual legislator or party, but the body as a whole. Because ours is a nonpartisan office, and because I made certain agreements when I took the position, I am barred from overt political action. For the past several years, I’ve made my peace with this.
But this year, there are amendments.
Minnesota voters will see two proposed constitutional amendments on our ballots come November 8. One would confine the definition of marriage to one man and one woman. The other would require every would-be voter to present a photo ID.
I have Very Strong Opinions about these ballot measures. But, technically, I’m not allowed to tell you what those opinions are. I can tell you that I’m in a committed relationship with a member of the same sex. I cantell you that many of my friends are in like situations, and others are in relationships of one man and two women, two men and two more men, one man and one don’t-confine-me-in-your-binary-gender-boxes. Many of whom might like to get married.
I can tell you that in one of my other day jobs, I routinely encounter people working two and three jobs where a single attendance violation puts them at risk of termination and people without permanent addresses. People without a single thought of election fraud in their heads, but for whom the restrictions and challenge processes of the proposed ID amendment would form as daunting an impediment against ballot-casting as physically barring the door in front of them.
You may draw your own conclusions from that.
I love my job. I love the work I do and the people I do it with. And I take the oaths of impartiality I swore to my employer very seriously. In the past, I’ve reconciled my distaste for about half of the documents that cross my desk by seeing myself as donning the mantle of Sacred Witness, an important role in our local Reclaiming community, especially in oracle work. The Sacred Witness attends fully and makes space for whatever work is coming into being, without judgment or critique. I see myself the same way in this job: I make space for democratic process to flower, even when its fruits taste bitter to me.
But these amendments stir such passions in me. Such intense reactions about what is and is not the just and compassionate direction for our state to proceed. I feel these things as a queer person and Pagan. And I find my hands tied—but I also find myself suspecting that I have allowed fear of losing this amazing position convince me that my options were more limited than they truly are.
And so I come to you, the readers of this blog, with a question. A hope. Because I find myself unable to see the way clear in this situation. I hope we might start a conversation here, and come to a conclusion or two, about a situation that I suspect catches a great many of us at one time or another: how do any of us do it? How do we maintain loyalties to two conflicting, if not completely contradictory, pulls? What do we do when our consciences want two things they might not be able to have at the same time?
When the path splits in two before us, how do we make a third way?