Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Out and About - June 2010

Above: Thanks to the abundant spring rain this year in Minnesota, the gardens in the Twin Cities have been especially lush and colorful.

For more images of the spring and summer buds and blooms, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
Spring's Return
In Minnesota, An Early Spring
Spring Blooms
Summer Rain

Above and below: On Thursday, June 3, I joined with about 80 others outside of St. Martin's Table Restaurant and Bookstore in South Minneapolis to dedicate and celebrate the planting of two peace poles, one planted outside of The Table and a second across the street outside of the African Development Center of Minnesota. Both poles contain the message "May Peace Prevail on Earth" in eight languages.

My friend Kathleen Olsen, who serves as the bookstore manager at The Table, welcomed folks to the gathering and helped lead music with fellow song leader Mary Preus and longtime Lutheran songwriter Ray Makeever. The ceremony included speeches by St. Martin's Table founder Mary Schramm and current manager Gert Brixius. It was followed by a brief ceremony at the African Development Center, where Hussein Samatar, Executive Director of the Center, spoke about the importance and power of peace. He suggested that while there is still much peacemaking that must be done, we can celebrate the victory of one afternoon of peace and collaboration in our neighborhood.

The dedication event was the culmination of St. Martin's Table's 25th Anniversary as a ministry of the Community of St. Martin. My friend Mary Preus, volunteer coordinator at The Table, said that the collaboration and celebration was a display of "our common vision for unity while celebrating diversity, hope in the midst of daily challenges, and joy for all who embody peace and spread it throughout the world."

Above: The June 12 wedding of friends Emily and Eddie!

Left: Kathleen, Emily, Eddie, and Joey.

Right: With my friend Greg at Eddie and Emily's wedding.

Above: The happy couple!

Above and below: Celebrating Father's Day with my friend Phil, his parents John (right) and Noelle, and family friend Jackie (second from right).

Above: My sweet boy, Quinn!

Above and left:
On Sunday, June 20, Phil, Noelle, and I enjoyed a day trip to the northern Minnesota port city of Duluth. We took little Quinn along with us.

Above: Duluth's famous Aerial Lift Bridge.

For more images of our visit to Minnesota's fourth largest city, see the previous Wild Reed post, Sunday in Duluth.

Above: The CPCSM and Dignity Twin Cities co-sponsored "Catholic Mass in Celebration of Our LGBT Brothers and Sisters" - June 24, 2010, at The House of the Beloved Disciple in South Minneapolis.

Right: Standing at right with Brian McNeill, president of Dignity Twin Cites. As I'm sure most visitors to The Wild Reed would know, I've served since 2003 as the executive coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM).

For more images and commentary on this Mass that was intentionally planned to acknowledge and celebrate the presence of God in the lives and relationships of LGBT individuals, couples, and families, click here.

Gay Pride was celebrated on the last weekend of June in the Twin Cities, and, as in past years, the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) had an informational booth at the popular Gay Pride festival that's held each year in Loring Park, Minneapolis.

Above: Standing second from right with (from left) Paul, Stephanie, and Tom - Saturday, June 26, 2010.

For more images and commentary about our Catholic presence at Gay Pride, click here.

Quote of the Day

I keep looking at the issues that are really causing angst within the Western Church and am struck with how many of them are the identical issues which cause angst in parents of teenage and younger adult children. Sex, relationships, money, transparency, and obedience. The trouble is a lot of Western Catholics have matured beyond young adulthood and yet the teaching authority of the Church is still attempting to use the same kinds of controlling techniques parents who haven't adjusted to the idea their children are growing up use to keep those children in line. Techniques which serve to underscore parental control and family hierarchy while freezing children in prepubescent obedience. Bishops are taking to denying the Eucharist the way some parents threaten keys to the car.

Benedict's New Evangelization will fail miserably if it starts from the premise that the loss of influence for the Church is a product of secularization. This is tantamount to a parent blaming peer pressure or high school culture for the fact their children are just growing up. There's no question some teenagers get lost in the process of maturing, but most teenagers don't get lost, and generally survive the process as better more mature thoughtful people. Good parents learn to accept and adjust to maturing children. They even learn to relish the challenges posed by those children because there is also much growth to be found for parents in this process. In fact one of the most important lessons parents can show adult children is that growth and maturation is a continual process. It never has to end. It's what keeps us young at heart.

Holy Mother Church is walking a path similar to the over controlling mother. In the end the only children left to see to her needs will be her dysfunctional immature bachelor sons and her carbon copy passive aggressive daughters.

- Colleen Kochivar-Baker
"Secularism Is Not the Problem. A Maturing Laity vs. a Controlling Hierarchy
is the Problem
Enlightened Catholicism
June 30, 2010

Worldwide Gay Pride - 2010

Across the globe throughout this past month of June, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people, their families, friends, and allies, have participated in celebrations that have affirmed and celebrated the gift of all forms of non-heterosexual orientation and identity.

Here are just a few images gathered from the Internet of these global Pride events of affirmation and celebration. Enjoy!

Above: Members of the LGBT cheerleading group Cheer SF, dance during San Francisco’s 40th annual gay pride parade on Sunday, June 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Above: Spectators watch the annual Gay Pride Parade in New York, June 27, 2010. (REUTERS/Keith Bedford)

Above: Participants take part in the gay pride parade in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, June 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Above: A Salvadoran with a painted face participates in a gay pride parade in San Salvador, June 26, 2010. (REUTERS/Oscar Rivera)

Above: A man waves a flag during the third annual Sofia Gay pride march in Sofia, Bulgaria. (AFP/Nikolay Doychinov)

Above: Two men kiss during the third Sofia Pride annual parade in Sofia, June 26, 2010. Hundreds of gays, lesbians, transsexuals and supporters of gay rights participated in the parade. (REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov)

Above: People dance under a rainbow flag during the Gay Pride march in Paris, June 26, 2010. (REUTERS/Mal Langsdon)

Above: A reveller takes part in a gay parade parade along Seventh Avenue in Medellin, Columbia, June 27, 2010. (REUTERS/Fredy Amariles)

Above: Two men hold their hands as they attend the Christopher Street Day parade in Berlin, on Saturday, June 19, 2010. Tens of thousands of gays, lesbians and other revelers marched and danced in the centre of Berlin for the German capital's annual gay pride celebration, which features a colorful parade through the heart of the city. Under the motto 'Normal is different,' an estimated 250,000 people lined the route for the Christopher Street Day parade Saturday, as some 50 floats carrying dancers wove through the city streets. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Above: Croatian riot police secure participants marching during the annual Gay Pride parade in Zagreb, Croatia, Saturday, June 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Filip Horvat)

Above: Turkish homosexuals and human rights activists chant slogans against Turkish government policy as they hold a giant rainbow flag during the gay pride march in Istanbul. (AFP/Bulent Kilic)

Opening image: Gay rights activists wear costumes and carry rainbow flags as they take part in a gay pride parade along Reforma Avenue, Mexico City, June 26, 2010. (REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Worldwide Gay Pride - 2009
Worldwide Gay Pride - 2008
Worldwide Gay Pride - 2007
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride - 2010
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride - 2009
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride - 2008
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride - 2007
A Simple Yet Radical Act
Dan Furmansky: "Why We Have Pride"

Recovering the Queer Artistic Heritage

For this seventh and final installment of The Wild Reed’s special “Gay Pride 2010” series, I share an excerpt from the introduction to The Queer Encyclopedia of Music, Dance, and Musical Theater.

When I first shared the title of this book to my (straight) friend John, he wryly remarked, “Well, what other type of encyclopedia would it be?” It seems that when it comes to music, dance, and musical theater, the prominent role and presence of “queer” men and women is somewhat of a given. Why is this? Has this queer artistic heritage always been present, accepted and celebrated? If not, why?

Edited by Claude J. Summers, The Queer Encyclopedia of Music, Dance, and Musical Theater seeks not only to “place portrayals of same-sex desire in historical context [and] provide accurate biographical information about artists who have contributed to queer artistic traditions,” but to also “explore important questions about the presence of homoeroticism in the world’s artistic legacy.”

The Queer Encyclopedia of Music, Dance, and Musical Theater is at once a documentation and reclamation of this distinct homoerotic cultural legacy - one that some have argued can be discerned in the pomp, rituals, and art of the Roman Catholic Church (see
here, here, here, and here). The book therefore “participates in a long endeavor by queer men and women to recover a social and cultural history that has frequently been deliberately distorted and censored.”

In the following excerpt from the book's introduction, Summers explores important and often vexed “theoretical issues” related to any study of the queer artistic heritage.


Because human sexual behavior and emotions are fluid and various rather than static or exclusive, the sexologist Alfred Kinsey and others have argued that the terms homosexual and heterosexual should more properly be used as adjectives rather than nouns, referring to acts and emotions but not to people. Moreover, the conception of homosexuality and heterosexuality as essential and exclusive categories has historically operated as a form of social control, defining the person who responds erotically to individuals of his or her own sex as the “Other,” or, more particularly, as queer or unnatural.

But though it may be tempting to conclude that there are no such entities as homosexuals or heterosexuals or bisexuals, this view, which so attractively stresses the commonality of human beings and minimizes the significance of sexual object-choices, poses its own dangers. Human sexuality is simply not as plastic as some theorists assert, and to deny the existence of homosexuals, bisexuals, and heterosexuals – or the pertinence of such categories – is to deny the genuineness of the personal identities and forms of erotic life that exist today. It is, indeed, to engage in a process of denial and erasure, rendering invisible a group that has had to struggle for recognition and visibility.

For most people, sexual orientation is not merely a matter of choice or preference but a classification that reflects a deep-seated internal, as well as social, reality. However arbitrary, subjective, inexact, and culture-bound the labels may be, they are impossible to escape and they affect individuals – especially those in the minority categories – in profound and manifold ways.

The most painful and destructive injustice visited upon people of alternative sexuality has been their separation from the normal and the natural, their stigmatization as queer. Yet the internalization of this stigma has also been their greatest strength and, indeed, the core of their identity in societies that regularly assign individuals to ostensibly exclusive categories of sexual desire. The consciousness of difference both spurred and made possible the recent creation of a homosexual minority – a gay and lesbian community – in the Western democracies, a process that involved transforming the conception of homosexuality from a “social problem” and personal failing to an individual and collective identity.

Quite apart from the fact that it facilitates identity politics, however, an acceptance of otherness, whether defined as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or the umbrella term queer, is also often personally empowering. Fostering qualities of introspection and encouraging social analysis, it enables people who feel excluded from some core assumptions and rituals of their society to evaluate themselves and their society from an ambiguous and often revealing perspective.

Homoerotic desire and behavior have been documented in every conceivable kind of society. What varies are the meanings that they are accorded from era to era and place to place. In some societies, homosexuality is tolerated and even institutionalized, whereas in others it is vilified and persecuted. In every society, there are undoubtedly individuals who are predominantly attracted to members of their own sex or who do not conform easily to gender expectations, but the extent to which that sexual attraction or gender non-conformity functions as a defining characteristic of these individuals’ personal and social identities varies considerably from culture to culture.

. . . Our sensitivity to the cultural specificity of sexual attitudes [need not] cause us to rob individual artists of individual perspectives or to condescend toward the past. All artists exist in relation to their time and must necessarily create from within their world views, or, as philosopher Michel Foucault would say, the epistemes of their ages. But the fact that artists are embedded in their cultures does not mean that they lack agency and individuality.

Artists tend to be more independent than their contemporaries, not less; and though they may express the tendencies and suppositions of their societies, they also frequently challenge them, even if those challenges are themselves facilitated and contained by societal beliefs. Hence, it is a mistake to assume that artists of earlier ages, before the general emergence of a modern homosexual identity, could not share important aspects of difference and a sense of alienation from society. One of the rewards of studying the queer artistic heritage is, in fact, the discovery of a queer subjectivity in the past and of the affinities as well as differences between earlier and later homosexualities.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Growing Strong
In the Garden of Spirituality – Toby Johnson
Love, Equality and the Rumba
Keeping All the Queens Under One Roof
The Archangel Michael as Gay Icon
St. Michael: Perspectives and Portraits
The Allure of St. Sebastian
"From Byzantine Daddy to Baroque Twink" - Charles Darwent on the Journey of St. Sebastian
Song of Songs: The Bible's Gay Love Poem
The Inherent Sensuality of Roman Catholicism
Officially Homophobic, Intensely Homoerotic
Homosexuality and the Priesthood
Homophobia? It's So Gay
What Is It That Ails You?

For previous posts in The Wild Reed’s special “Gay Pride 2010” series, see:
Standing Strong
Growing Strong
Jesus and Homosexuality
It Is Not Good To Be Alone
The Bisexual: “Living Consciously and Consistently in the Place Where the Twain Meet”
Spirituality and the Gay Experience

For 2009’s “Gay Pride” series, see:
A Mother’s Request to President Obama: Full Equality for My Gay Son
Marriage Equality in Massachusetts: Five Years On
It Shouldn’t Matter. Except It Does
Gay Pride as a Christian Event
Not Just Another Political Special Interest Group
Can You Hear Me, Yet, My Friend?
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride
Worldwide Gay Pride

Opening image: Taken from Men in Motion: The Art and Passion of the Male Dancer by François Rousseau.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride

Gay Pride was celebrated this past weekend in the Twin Cities, and, as in past years, I helped staff an informational booth for the organization I serve as executive coordinator for, the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM).

Above right: Standing second from right with (from left) Paul, Stephanie, and Tom - Saturday, June 26, 2010.

Along with information about CPCSM, we also shared at our booth information about
The Progressive Catholic Voice online journal, Catholic Rainbow Parents, and the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, of which CPCSM is a founding member organization.

We don't actually have a CPCSM banner. One reason for this is that "the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities" sounds so official! And we're mindful of not wanting to give the impression that we're in any way endorsed by the official clerical leadership of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis - especially given this leadership's limited and largely uninformed stance on LGBT issues. And so we opt for the banner at above left - one that succinctly sums up a big part of what CPCSM is all about and what we seek to honor and work to see realized in both the church and society, i.e., compassion and equality for LGBT individuals, couples, and families.

Our banner was very popular with many attendees of Pride. A number of folks wanted to simply photograph it and its message - one which, let's face it, you don't see everyday! The overwhelming sentiment that was expressed by those who stopped by our booth was one of gratitude. People were heartened by our presence. And even folks who believe that the situation in the Church for LGBT people is completely hopeless, nevertheless told us that they appreciated and supported our efforts of reform.

Occasionally, of course, one is confronted by an individual who has been so hurt by the insensitive and erroneous words and actions of the official church on the issue of homosexuality that they are hostile toward those of us who, in any way, align ourselves with Catholicism. It's always very difficult encountering and engaging that type of hostile energy, that type of deep woundedness. I simply do my best to empathize with their feelings of hurt, and to support their decision to find spiritual nurturance beyond Roman Catholicism. Yet I also gently maintain that there can be a place for reform from within the church, and that I and many others find it helpful to remember that, as Rosemary Radford Ruether says, "Catholic does not equal the Vatican."

Held amidst the peaceful greenery of Loring Park, on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, Twin Cities Pride is the third largest Gay Pride festival in the United States - after San Francisco and New York.

In the photo above, the Roman Catholic Basilica of St. Mary can be seen looming over the rainbow-hued proceedings in Loring Park. It's an image that makes me smile, as it brings to mind Rev. Irene Monroe's recent article in which she makes the case for the Catholic Church being a gay institution - something that she insists is a good thing.

Left: Tom and Gretchen Murr (co-founders of Catholic Rainbow Parents) and their daughter chat with my friend and CPCSM supporter Paula Ruddy at the CPCSM booth - Saturday, June 26, 2010.

In 2003, Tom, Gretchen, and their gay son David were part of a CPCSM-sponsored "alternative forum" - one that challenged the discredited science and narrow theology of the Courage movement.

Right: My good friends Jairo and John, standing with the wild reeds behind the CPCSM booth.

Above: CPCSM supporter Mary Jean.

Above: More CPCSM friends: Neil (right), his partner Rick, and the couple's friend Tam.

A popular flyer which we distribute each year at Pride contains a list of local Catholic parishes in which LGBT people have told us they experience hospitality. It's actually quite a long list - and one that many people are grateful for.

Above and below: Many young people where drawn to the CPCSM booth, happy and hope-filled at seeing the words "Catholic" and "gay" together. In our main informational flyer that we distribute each year at Pride, we acknowledge that for some people seeing these two words together may seem incongruent, especially given the Church's official condemnatory stance on "homosexual activity." Yet as we go on to explain that:

The Vatican may think this way but we do not believe that being Catholic means unquestioning obedience to every utterance of the Vatican. There's so much more to being a Catholic than that. And the Catholic Church is so much bigger than simply "the Vatican." We understand the Church, not as an exclusive club, but primarily as the People of God. . . . As the Church we are continually living and growing in our understanding of God's presence within and among us. Like many Catholics we therefore believe that hallmark of our Catholic faith is a trusting openness and response to the presence and action of God within all creation and thus the vast and diverse arena of human life and relationships.

One young woman (pictured above center) recognized me from when I spoke four years ago at her Catholic high school. She was pleased to see that the book I had been working on at that time had been published in 2007 as Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective. I had copies of the book, along with this review, at our booth.

One young man was over the moon to be given a copy of the Catholic Rainbow Parents' 2005 Declaration. He couldn't wait to share this Declaration with his parents who are struggling to reconcile their Catholic faith with their son's sexual orientation. I hope it will be of help to them.

I posted the above photo on Saturday as my "Photo of the Day." It shows an associate of "Christian missionary" John Chisham preaching an anti-gay message - one that's being met with loving opposition by a gay male couple.

Chisham and his small group of supporters positioned themselves opposite the CPCSM booth on Saturday afternoon, although I doubt their proximity to us was intentional. Rather, the location they chose afforded a convenient open space. The Star Tribune reports, that Chisham's presence and message ensured a volatile situation:

Another protester at Saturday's event, John Chisham of Marshall, Minn., attracted far more attention than the [Bible distributing] Brian Johnson as he stood on a box with a sign that read "You are an abomination to God, You justify the wicked," preaching to a jeering crowd. Chisham attracted shouts of disapproval and arguments from passersby. Eventually, Pride attendees stood in front of him with signs that read, "Standing on the Side of Love."

And then the gay male couple did their thing!

I saw them starting to kiss and immediately knew this would be a photo opportunity too good to miss. In terms of composition, I think the photo I took works very well. I also like what this image conveys symbolically. I mean, one of Chisham's crew is ranting, another is standing isolated and somewhat forlorn. Both are behind the bars of a fence, sectioned off from the love being expressed outside their prison of ignorance and fear! In the distance, beyond the ranting man, rises a church tower. Visually, it's quite powerful, though ironically the tower belongs to St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral - one of the most gay-friendly churches in the Twin Cities!

And in contrast to these two figures are the two men in the foreground. It seems to me that all else fades into insignificance at the authenticity and power conveyed by their loving embrace and passionate kiss. And I love the splash of color provided by the flower in the headband of the guy on the left, and the rainbow colors on this same man's right wrist. On so may levels, this photo just works.

Above: Chris and Steve.

Above: Members and friends of Dignity Twin Cities.

Earlier in the week, CPCSM co-sponsored with Dignity a "Catholic Mass in Celebration of Our LGBT Brothers and Sisters." For images and commentary on this Mass, click here.

Above: Members of the Bisexual Organizing Project (BOP), a non-profit social and service organization dedicated to "serving the needs of the Twin Cities bisexual community and providing resources and information to the community at large."

For more on the issue of bisexuality, see the previous Wild Reed post Living Consciously and Consistently in the Place Where the Twain Meet.

Above, right, and below: As these photos show, there's always an abundance of positive and inspiring energy, creativity, diversity, and sense of solidarity at Gay Pride!

Above and below: And, of course, there's always an abundance of pets! . . . Dogs of all kinds, pythons, parrots, and ferrets. I refrained, however, from bringing along my okapi!

Above: And finally, there's always an abundance of beautiful wild reeds at Gay Pride in the Twin Cities!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being "Wonderfully Made"
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2009)
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2008)
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2007)
Gay Pride as a Christian Event
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
Our Catholic "Stonewall Moment"
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
Knowing What to Do, Knowing Why to Stay