Sure

I spent six months
Writing love poems
About my best friend
And I’m still not sure
If I’m actually gay.

So long
Cringing at every “miss” and “ma’am”
But obviously I’m just pretending
To have no gender –
No binary to rest in.

I don’t think
It’s actually doubt.

I think it is the body’s last defense
Screaming,
“Are you sure you’re sure?
Because this shit is hard.”

Because another trans woman was murdered today.

Because there will be jobs you won’t get.

Because there will be people
Who block your path
Just so they can be the ones
To tear you down

There is nothing
More liberating
Than putting on a dress
For the first time,

Than first time
Someone you love uses
Your correct pronouns

And nothing
More terrifying
Than realizing
How much
It will cost you.

I’m sure.
And there are still days
I wish I wasn’t.

I’m sure.
And I still wonder
How much easier it would be.

I’m sure
I want to die
In the arms of my beloved
And let her tell anyone who will listen,
“They lived unapologetically.”

Affirmations to Our Inner Children

On Sunday, February 16, 2020, I asked the congregation of UUCT to write down a message they wish they had heard when they were younger. These affirmations to our inner children were written on small wooden hearts, which were then assembled into a chain that will be placed in our new Religious Exploration classroom, so we can surround our children with the kinds of messages we needed when we were children.

Sometimes, the massive amount of injustice and pain in this world seems beyond daunting – it seems impossible to even fully comprehend, let alone begin to heal. But I get to see firsthand in my job that we are already healing, that love is already winning, because it is alive and well in the beautiful and brilliant children and youth I get to serve. They are living proof that the Beloved Community is achievable, and they are made so by the love of their families and communities. The generations growing up surrounded by these messages are the ones who will continue to change the world.

We are doing such good work.


  1. Ever lasting love
  2. You are great
  3. Never forget me
  4. Love yourself
  5. What I believe is ok
  6. You are ok just the way you are
  7. It is ok to cry
  8. Your creativity will take you far
  9. Love yourself, see your beauty, you are beautiful
  10. You are lovable
  11. Express what you are feeling
  12. You got this
  13. You can handle this
  14. U R awesome
  15. You can rest
  16. Keep trying
  17. You are light. Love you now.
  18. You will improve the world
  19. Thank you for helping. I love you.
  20. Go where you are celebrated
  21. You are who you are. You are enough.
  22. You are loved and you are worthy of love
  23. Love one another
  24. I am worthy
  25. You are loved
  26. I love your sense of wonder and exploration
  27. Love
  28. You are loved
  29. Acceptance
  30. Listen to inside. Expand your embrace.
  31. Hugs
  32. I ❤ U
  33. I care for you
  34. You are good enough
  35. You are great. Love you.
  36. Understand
  37. It’s ok to not know everything
  38. Jesus loves
  39. I love you
  40. It’s ok not to be perfect
  41. You are loved
  42. You are loved
  43. You can’t love anyone until you love yourself
  44. I love you
  45. It’s ok
  46. I am lovable
  47. I’m glad you are here
  48. You are awesome
  49. Love – “Love!”
  50. You are great
  51. I do love myself
  52. You got this!
  53. You are loved
  54. Everyone is smart in their own way
  55. Speak your heart
  56. I love your hair
  57. You are special to me
  58. What a fine job
  59. You are lovable
  60. You are awesome
  61. How you feel matters
  62. Forgive yourself
  63. UR Loved
  64. You are important to me
  65. You are very special
  66. You are perfect the way you are
  67. Be free
  68. You are NOT “too much”
  69. Loved.
  70. Aspire to love
  71. You are special
  72. Good luck!
  73. Today, I believe in myself
  74. Love!
  75. You are already doing it!
  76. You’re loved.
  77. Don’t hide your light
  78. You are loved
  79. You can do it!
  80. Glorious you!
  81. You are special
  82. I am so proud of you!
  83. What a great job!
  84. You are beautiful.
  85. Be proud of you
  86. The world is better with you in it!
  87. Your inherent worth and dignity are inarguable and unconditional
  88. Ask for help
  89. You are important

What is Unitarian Universalism Anyway?
The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Donald Trump
Flower Communion Compassion Meditation
“Love is the Spirit”
Enough

IMG_4853

Both

Today they’re wearing a pink tutu that I’m pretty sure was part of a Minnie Mouse costume at one point, with sparkly light up Paw Patrol shoes and a fuzzy pink jacket complete with a unicorn horn on the hood. I wish I was half as cool as Henry.

Walking out of the preschool, another parent walks beside me as I hum a tune from Les Mis and scroll through Instagram without actually looking at any pictures. I think of the cup of coffee rapidly cooling in my car, and the pile of tasks waiting for me when I get to work.

“Excuse me.”

I glance up to see the other parent looking at me. I had seen them briefly in Henry’s classroom, though I’m sure I don’t know their name, or even which kid they belong to.

I smile. “Hi.”

“I have a question.”

My conscious mind doesn’t even begin to respond before my mama bear instinct does. My pulse quickens just so slightly, and I inhale sharply. I can feel the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention, prepared for whatever battle is to come.

I have had this conversation more times than I can count. It’s almost a script by now.

I will avoid using their name and I will not use any binary pronouns or identifiers like son or daughter. I will stress the fact that Henry chooses their own clothing so long as it is appropriate for the weather, even if that means wearing a superhero cape to church. If pressed, I will respond that they are simply a person with inarguable inherent worth and dignity. If pressed further, I will ask why the other party seems to be so interested in a four-year-old child’s genitalia.

And it is exhausting.

Even in my progressive Unitarian Universalist bubble, there are those who do not want to understand, and those who are so committed to saying the right thing that they often say nothing at all, avoiding interactions and healthy discourse in favor of avoiding feeling uncomfortable.

I am uncomfortable knowing that these fellows I love fall short of our shared values every time they pretend they don’t see gender. It is not the same, but it does remind me of the incredible harm caused by claiming that one does not see race.

The other parent stands close to me. They look at me, and then at the ground. Their arms are crossed in the unholy 40-degree Florida chill.

“The gender of your child…?” they implore. Their voice is soft, and their eyes are kind. My whole body relaxes as I realize they are not looking for a battle, they just want to understand.

“Henry identifies as both,” I respond. “They were assigned male at birth and they wear whatever they want. I’m just along for the ride.”

“Oh, cool.” And we begin walking again. “I just wasn’t sure, and I was wondering.”

“No worries,” I respond, mentally chastising myself for my initial assumptions about how this conversation would go.

“And thank you for being so nice about it. Sometimes people are real jerks.”

I don’t think they said anything else as we went our separate ways in the parking lot, Les Mis already playing through my head once more. Once I returned to the warmth of my car, an incredible gratitude washed over me.

We begin to un-learn our trauma responses by being shown kindness where we have not before.

This person did not ask the perfect question in the perfect way, they were not perfectly woke or an expert, they were simply kind, nonjudgmental, and willing to try to understand.

The best any of us can do is be kind, nonjudgmental, and willing to try to understand.


More posts like this:

The Dress
God(dess)
The Value of Affirmation
Identify

The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Donald Trump

When we teach our children the 7 UU principles, instead of “we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people” we simplify it a little bit and say, “each person is important.”

In my opinion, that first principle kind of covers it. If we acknowledge that each person is important, that we all matter and have the same worth, then the rest of them come along naturally, right?

I thought the same thing when I studied social work. The National Association of Social Workers has a code of ethics that social work students begin studying their first year. The very first item in the code, section 1.01, reads:

“Social workers’ primary responsibility is to promote the well-being of clients.”

Following the same logic as before, if a social worker is to promote the wellbeing of their clients, then the rest of the code really goes back to that. We don’t sleep with clients because it does not promote their well-being. We do stay culturally competent because it does promote their well-being. We engage in continuing education because it promotes the well-being of our clients, but we don’t charge them outrageous rates for services because that doesn’t.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re a social worker – I know some of you actually are. Let’s pretend that you’re a social worker and you have a client who is racist and sexist and their job puts them in a position of incredible power over people of color and women. Let’s pretend they say things that make you question their sanity and stability, that they suffer from delusions of grandeur and habitually neglect their physical health.

How would you promote the well-being, or the inherent worth and dignity, of Donald Trump?

If you asked Donald, I’m sure he would tell you that he is very important. Maybe he had one Sunday of religious exploration back in the day and that’s what stuck. In any case, I can’t imagine that he doubts his own inherent worth and dignity, at least at face value. Having studied human behavior in school and in life, I suspect that he has some deep-seeded fears of inadequacy that influence his behavior, but there are countless people much more qualified than myself to discuss the psychology of his behavior.

So, if Donald Trump likely has no problem owning his inherent worth and dignity, then why should we care about affirming and promoting it?

I’d like to suggest that “we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people” has less to do with “all people” than it has to do with “we.”

Perhaps the face-value message of that statement, that we are all equal and deserve to be treated as such, is only one level.

I’d like to suggest that affirming and promoting the inherent worth and dignity of all people is a charge to those of us who claim these principles, a statement of how we intend to behave when we are in the arena.

Social work researcher and author Brene Brown has now famously quoted Theodore Roosevelt when speaking on this topic:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  -Theodore Roosevelt

Brown’s work is another series of essays of its own accord. What I’d like to focus on here is the concept of the arena. In ancient times, gladiators fought to the death in the arena. Today, the stakes might be much lower with things like the Superbowl or Olympics.

But beyond spectator sports, there is another arena – the society where each and every day, we are accosted by racist, classist, and sexist systems of oppression, by environmental destruction, by the people emboldened by leaders who fuel the fires of discrimination with sensationalized hate speech and outright lies.

Each and every day, we are in the arena with Donald Trump. We are in the arena with the people who voted for him, the systems and patterns that got him into office, and the society that allows all of it to exist.

As Unitarian Universalists, our values clearly show us that we have no choice but to engage in this fight. What we must now do is decide how we will choose fight it.

Respecting the inherent worth and dignity of Donald Trump does not mean that his behavior is excusable. It does not mean that we will stop striving for a fair and peaceful world, that we will submit to hate.

Because affirming and promoting Donald Trump’s inherent worth and dignity says very little about him and everything about us.

Choosing to be a UU in this arena is choosing to side with love. It is choosing the high road. It is showing up. Being a UU in this arena is choosing to be a part of the reason most of us like to believe that the good folx will always win in the end.

It is also choosing our battles, protecting our energy, and trusting that the beloved community has our backs when we have to step away.

This arena is gruesome. It is exhausting to care so much in a world that seems not to. It is overwhelming to think about the massive work that is yet to be done.

But our children are watching. The future is depending on us. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

This country is still in its infancy in the grand scheme of things, and it hasn’t had the greatest childhood so far. Psychological research indicates that trauma responses – behaviors, sometimes maladaptive, that come about in response to traumatic events or circumstances – are passed from generation to generation if they are not intentionally addressed. Moreover, some biological research suggests that trauma leaves a legacy in our very DNA.

Left unacknowledged, trauma will always manifest elsewhere – as anger, as addiction, as issues with control or our sense of worth. These troubles compound with every generation it goes unaddressed.

I can’t begin to untangle the mess of trauma and pain that has yielded the current state of this country, but when we consider that it was stolen from her native people and built upon the backs of stolen people, the generational trauma theory makes some sense.

This is the arena we are in – an arena of trauma: generational trauma, cultural trauma, personal traumas, trauma to the land and the creatures we share it with. In such an arena, how does one hope to exist?

For me, I hope to exist bravely. I hope to stay steadfast in my values. I hope, when I hear Donald Trump spew hatred and lies about minorities or people who believe differently than him, I can affirm and promote my own inherent worth and dignity enough to not match his vitriol with my own, but to put my disgust and anger into positive action.

I hope I can affirm and promote his inherent worth and dignity enough to wish him the healing he so very clearly needs. I hope I can be surrounded with fellow UUs engaging in the labor of loving the hell out of this world as we all struggle to make a difference.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for to heal the traumas that this country was built upon. We have the opportunity to continue the work of scrubbing clean the DNA of the world we live in, to tend to the soil and plant seeds instead of wondering why nothing will grow on poisoned land.

If we are lucky, our legacy will not be in the traumatized DNA of the generations to come, but in the great heights they might climb from trees rooted firmly in values that will not allow hate to persist, and will not stoop to hate’s level to end it.

It is a colossal and worthy cause. At best, these principles we strive to live by will not only be ideals but standards, and at worst, we know we will never find ourselves beside those cold and timid souls who were not willing or able to even try and commit to radical love – but we will affirm and promote their inherent worth and dignity, too.

 

“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
-Matthew 5:43-44

Gay Street

We’re standing on Gay Street
Under your huge rainbow umbrella
On our very first absolutely-not-a-date
The very first time I realize
We are absolutely
Not getting out of here the same.

The lavender latte I had that night
Tasted like soap.
It was not good.
But I would probably smile
Through a mug of actual soap
If it meant I got to sit beside you.

We were absolutely not dating
All the times we accidentally wore
Almost the exact same thing,
Hearts dancing through aquariums
And dusty vintage stores,
A pristine queer Christmas card
Absolutely unbothered
By the depths of how strange
This life can be.

Standing beside you on Gay Street
Under your huge rainbow umbrella
I wanted to say,
“Want to make out?”
Instead, I got lost
Somewhere between someday
And your smile.

I find myself
One full year later
Sipping on lavender tea
That tastes like sunlight.

It reminds me of the blistering shine
Of unlikely family,
How sometimes, we can love a person
Long before they learn to love themselves.

I hope I never run out of chances
To see you roll your eyes
When I ask you
If my stubborn adoration of you
Make me look gay.

I can’t wait to go to Pride again,
To take turns carrying the flag
To take turns carrying the weight
Of whatever life seems to think we can handle

We march down Gay Street
And the Universe cheers
For the love story she wrote
With homemade lasagna
And mixed CDs,
And every
Absolutely-not-a-date
We laughed and somedayed through.

Every soapy latte
That was worth every last sip –

Nothing has ever been the same since.

2019 Was [Good As] Hell

I started 2019 making $8.50/hour at a Boys and Girls Club in Knoxville, TN. I was barely paying my bills, barely keeping up in school, and barely holding on to my mental health and my dreams, but I was committed to doing the next right thing over and over and over again.

On my very first day there last autumn, I glued a tiny printout of the children’s version of the 7 Unitarian Universalist Principles on the back of my brand new name badge. It was a handy reminder of what I was working for. I had barely named my call to ministry, and soon after I said the words aloud, my personal life collapsed in ways I could have never imagined.

Sometimes, Love breaks your heart wide open to clear away what no longer serves you and to open the door to new possibilities.

“The wound is the point where the light enters you.”
-Rumi

Every Sunday morning that autumn and spring, I sang and meditated and contemplated alongside my beloved church community. I got more involved in the church – I joined several committees and was asked to be on the Board of Trustees. I cried in that sanctuary more times than I can count. I spent my weekday afternoons at the Club, supervising crafts and trying not to roll my eyes too hard when the church that owned the space bribed the children into Bible Study with candy and toys. I danced around my truth when the children asked why I don’t have a boyfriend or husband.

One day at work, a little boy of about six or seven was playing with my nametag. He mouthed the words in rainbow lines and looked up at me with a smile that I swear came straight from the Divine.

“I want to change the world like that!” he exclaimed.

“Well,” I said, “the good news is you can.”

I want to change the world like that too. I knew that when I named my call, and even before. My human mind didn’t understand what I was getting into when I walked into Westside UU Church nine years ago, but my soul certainly did.

One year ago, I delivered my first sermon ever at Westside. I spoke about embracing fear and doing things that scare us anyway. I didn’t expect to spend the next year doing even more things that terrify me.

I didn’t realize I would swipe right on my soul’s best friend just days later, that encountering spiritual family is beautiful and heart-crushing all at once. I had no idea I would take a family member to court for a restraining order. I couldn’t fathom what it would take to make sure my child has the freedom to grow up true to themselves. I didn’t realize the ways I would have to -painfully and gladly- become their advocate.

I had no idea what was waiting for me in Tallahassee, but I knew as soon as I submitted my resume for the DRE position that if they just offered me an interview, I would get the job that is now mine.

Solo parenting 500 miles away from my support system while moving and starting a new career has been exhausting and empowering. I am not the same person I was even six months ago, when we rolled into Tallahassee with a carload full of our belongings and little resembling a plan – and I am so glad for it.

Ending 2019, I am not rich by any means – my little apartment doesn’t even have a dishwasher and I’m writing this from the discomfort of the laundromat, where I’ve been spending a lot more time since we started potty training. But I make a living wage doing work that I love. I know my bills will be paid. I know we will have everything we need. I know my job will never be in jeopardy because I am queer or pagan or outspoken or desperate to save the world. In fact, I know the Unitarian Universalist tradition will continue to embrace me as a religious professional because of all those things.

Six months ago, I wanted to go to seminary. I knew I was called to ministry, but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about getting there. Today, I am ready in a way I didn’t ever think I would be, so much so that the first time I met them, my adviser at Starr King said, “You seem so grounded and ready and called.”

I hope that every action I take going forward speaks to that truth.

When I started working with kids 10 years ago, the director at the camp I worked for told us to “assume a confidence you may not feel.” He assured us that the actual confidence would come but didn’t ever say when. I hope nobody tells the baby-faced counselors starting there next summer that it might take ten years. But by Godde, it did finally come, and it brought joy and serenity and hope with it.

This has been the hardest year of my life, and the best one yet.

I am so excited for what’s to come.

“Boss up and change your life. You can have it all, no sacrifice…
Baby, how you feeling?
Feeling good as hell.”
-Lizzo

Holiday Card 2019


Posts linked in this article:

What is Unitarian Universalism Anyway?
Answering the Call
Enough
On Coming Out and Adopting Trauma
On Letting Go and Resolutions
The Dress
Instruments of Peace
“Angels of the Get Through”