Category Archives: Lesbian

I Have No More Tears Today

Oh, no! She sits alone, the city that was once full of people.                     Once great among nations, she has become like a widow.                  Once a queen over provinces, she has become a slave.                             She weeps bitterly in the night, her tears on her cheek.                           None of her lovers comfort her. All her friends lied to her;                   they have become her enemies.                                                                          Lamentations 1.1-2

I have no more tears today. I have cried since last night.

I have cried for the future of my family.
I have cried over the prospect of having a Supreme Court that will undo my marriage, and with it, all the protections that my immigrant spouse has.
I have cried for the well-being of my niece and nephew whose parents might be taken away from them.
downloadI have cried for my other relatives who live and work and contribute to the economy of this country while not being able to access proper documentation.
I have cried for the prospect of my own, Congress-imposed US citizenship been revoked with no other alternative to fall back on.

I have cried for my friends.
I have cried for my gay, lesbian and bisexual friends whose rights are now at the hands of vice-president elect Pence, who has done all in his power to strip LGB Indianans of their rights.
I have cried for my transgender siblings whose lives are placed in great danger due to the same vice-president elect and his antics.
I have cried for the many women I know – young and old – whose safety is not guaranteed anymore as a sexual predator takes over the highest elected position in this country, thus giving permission to other predators to “grab”, to touch, to violate their beings.
I have cried for the workers of this country, whose wages are going to be frozen for decades to come and whose jobs are not guaranteed anymore as they are being shipped overseas as the president-elect has done with all the other bankrupt businesses he has run.
I have cried for the poor and sick who could barely access healthcare and had a last fighting chance with the soon-to-be-overthrown Affordable Care Act.

I have cried for humanity.
I have cried for the black community whose safety – which has never been guaranteed – will now face “stop and frisk” experiences with the proposed changes in law and order.
I have cried for the Native American communities whose ancestral lands will be desecrated without impunity.
I have cried with the immigrants and refugees who will no longer find relative safety in this country nor will they be welcomed to access it anymore.
I have cried with those of us who practice some form of faith – whether Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, or any other – whose religious liberties will be at the whim of the far-right Evangelical Christian camp that will dominate this fascist regime.
I have cried for the environment and all the relentless desecration that will occur.
I have cried for all the people of all the countries that the president-elect has promised to destroy making use of the military forces that are now under his control.
I have cried for all the children who will not be safe any longer for a generation or two as laws protecting them will be revoked.

I have no more tears today. The only thing that I still hold on to is the hope that the fascist government ahead will help this country wake up from its deep slumber and that it will shake it to its core as to make it see how terrifying the near future looks like.

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November 9, 2016 · 10:59 am

Vigil For LGBTQ Orlando Victims — Vigilia por las víctimas LGBTQ de Orlando

I shared these words with the Madison community during a vigil in honor of the victims of the recent massacre in Orlando. | Compartí estas palabras con la comunidad de Madison durante una vigilia en honor a las víctimas de la reciente masacre en Orlando.


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Rainbow flag with the names of the victims of the Orlando massacre. | Arcoiris de banderas con los nombres de las víctimas de la masacre de Orlando.

Buenas tardes, y gracias por decir “presente” en esta vigilia de recordación de nuestros hermanos y hermanas en Orlando. Soy el Rvdo. J. Manny Santiago, director ejecutivo de “The Crossing” un ministerio ecuménico para estudiantes en la Universidad de Wisconsin – Madison. Estaré compartiendo con ustedes unas palabras en español y luego en inglés. | Good afternoon and thank you for being here at this vigil honoring the siblings we lost in Orlando. I am the Rev. J. Manny Santiago, Executive Director of The Crossing campus ministry at the UW-Madison. I will share some words in Spanish first and then in English.

Español

No es fácil para mí el encontrar las palabras para compartir con nuestra comunidad. Hay ocasiones en el ministerio cuando tragedias como la que hemos sufrido nos dejan así: sin palabras, con dolor, con furia y confusión. Al mismo tiempo, sabemos que necesitamos levantar nuestras voces, ya sea para animarnos los unos a los otros, para denunciar injusticias o, en ocasiones, hasta para cuestionar la bondad de Dios cuando solo que podemos ver es violencia y muerte. Todo eso es parte del proceso de duelo y nadie nos debe decir que no sintamos estas cosas. Para mí, he pasado por todas esas etapas en menos de una semana: he sentido dolor, rabia, miedo, confusión y hasta he cuestionado la bondad de Dios que sirvo.

¿Por qué? Pues porque la tragedia de Orlando me ha tocado muy de cerca. No solamente tengo familia en Orlando – algunos de los cuales asisten al Club Pulse de vez en cuando – sino que, igual que la mayoría de las víctimas, soy Latino, puertorriqueño y abiertamente gay. Sí, soy un hombre Latino, pastor y gay. Desde pequeño escuché que esas cosas no podrían vivir juntas en una sola persona. Ese discurso de odio y rechazo que escuché de pequeño en la Iglesia me llevó a cuestionar, no solo mi identidad, sino el mismo amor de Dios y mi familia. Hoy muchas personas – políticos, líderes religiosos, etc. – están tratando de borrar las identidades de las víctimas de la masacre de Orlando. No queremos reconocer que son personas LGBTQ, no queremos reconocer que en su mayoría eran Latinos, no queremos reconocer que había entre ellos personas sin documentos… Algunas personas incluso han intentado poner a nuestras comunidades Latinas o LGBTQ en contra de la comunidad Musulmana.

Para mí, como persona de fe, Latino, puertorriqueño, gay, quiero dejarle saber a todas las personas que estamos tratando de hacer sentido de la tragedia: no va a ser un proceso fácil. Necesitamos crear espacios para procesar el dolor, el miedo, e inclusive para cuestionar la bondad de Dios. Pero en ningún momento podemos dejar de luchar por la justicia, por la paz, por reformas legislativas que ayuden a las comunidades de minoría. Reconozcamos que, en especial en nuestras comunidades Latinas, es tiempo de rechazar el machismo, la homofobia, la violencia, el racismo, la islamofobia y el heterosexismo que tanto permea entre nosotros. Es tiempo de levantarnos en unidad, en honor a todas las victimas de tragedias como esta y decir: ¡BASTA!

Que el Dios que se revela de muchas formas y de muchos nombres nos llene de valor, de amor, de sabiduría y de paz para hacer el trabajo…

___

English

It is not easy for me to find the words to share with you today. There are moments in ministry when tragedies like the one we have just witnessed leave us like this: without words, in pain, furious, and confused. At the same time, we know that we must lift up our voices, whether to support each other, to denounce injustices and even, on occasion, to question God’s goodness when the only thing we can see is violence and death. All this is part of the mourning process and nobody should tell us that we should not have these feelings. As for me, I have gone through all of these stages in the past week: I have been in pain, furious, scared, confused, and yes, I have questioned God’s goodness.

Why? Because the tragedy in Orlando is too close to me. I have family in Orlando – some of whom frequent Pulse Club – but also because, like the majority of the victims, I am Latino, Puerto Rican and openly queer. Yes, I am a gay, Latino pastor. Since childhood I’ve heard that these things cannot coexist. This discourse of hatred and rejection that I heard in Church brought me to question, not only my identity as a human being, but also God’s and my family’s love towards me. Today, many people – politicians and religious leaders in particular – are trying to erase the many identities that the victims embodied. Many do not want to recognize that the victims where LGBTQ, they do not want to recognize that the victims were Latino, they don’t want to recognize that among them there were people without proper documentation to work in the USA… Some have even tried to put our LGBTQ and Latino communities against the Muslim community.

As for me, as a person of faith, as a Latino, a Puerto Rican, and gay, I want to make it clear to all: trying to make sense of this tragedy will not be easy. We must build spaces to process the pain, the fear, and even to question God’s goodness. But under no circumstances must we stop working for justice, for peace, and for legislative reforms that would support minority communities. We, Latinos, must recognize that it is time to reject our machismo, our homophobia, our worshiping of death and violence, our Islamophobia, our racism, and our heterosexism. It is time to rise up, together, in honor of these victims and all the other victims of past violence, and say: ENOUGH!

May the God who is revealed in many forms grant us courage, and love, and wisdom, and peace for the work ahead of us…

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Filed under Church, Culture, Dios, Español, ethnicity, familia, Gay, Heritage, Hispanics, Hispanos, Identidad, Identity, iglesia, immigration, justice, Latino, Lesbian, LGBTQ, ministry, Peace, Puerto Rico, Queer, race, racism, Teología, Theology, trans, United States, USA

What Will Come…

rainbow-flag

(I wrote this poem as a reaction to the recent events of terror and homophobia that have taken from us 49 of our siblings in the city of Orlando, FL.)

What will come
When the lights of the candles are extinguished
When the rage of the moment has passed
When the strength we have found
In community tonight
Has faded into the memory land

What will come
When the queers are once more
Pushed into hiding
When our voices are
Once more overwhelmed
By the money and power
Of the radical hate

What will come
When our tears are silenced
And when our pain is ignored
And when our strength faints
And our wounds are too deep but forgotten

What will happen
When the deafening silence
Of our so-called allies
Becomes once again
The norm

What will happen
When the prayers are fading
When the hugs are no more
When the lights are shut down
And the cold of the night
Overcomes our fickle souls
When the next attention-grabbing
Political squabble
Erases forever
The names and the faces
Of the saints that lay down
In a desecrated sanctuary
That our kisses once housed

What will happen
Once that all is forgotten
Once that their names are not mentioned
For ever no more

What will happen
When I will look at the mirror
And realized once again
That this is not the largest
Nor the last of them
Violence
Against people like me

What will happen
Tomorrow
I wonder
What will happen
I dream.

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Filed under Culture, discrimination, ethnicity, Gay, Heritage, Hispanics, Hispanos, justice, Latino, Lesbian, LGBTQ, Queer, race, racism, United States, USA

Rising From the Ashes

In Greek mythology there was a bird, the Phoenix, which was always reborn out of its own ashes. This image of rebirth, especially out of difficult circumstances, is not new in religion. Almost every major faith tradition shares this imagery of death and rebirth. However, the story of the Phoenix is particularly appropriate for the story of Ash Wednesday that I would ash-wednesday-usalike to share with you today.

Like the Phoenix, there are times when we need to be reborn out of our own ashes. There are situations and events in our lives that could feel like fire burning, destroying, razing with every part of who we are. Nothing can be done… unless you have the drive to be reborn.

The young man entered the sanctuary a few minutes before our Ash Wednesday service began. He came by himself. I was certain I had seen him before. As he found his way into the circle, something told me that this was a special visit for us.

I love planning the Ash Wednesday service, for it gives me the chance to use liturgies that I enjoy and share that with those who come to visit with us. It is also the one worship experience when we get the most visitors. This is always a challenge, as you want to let people know what the ministry is all about but also be true to my liturgical preferences. It is also an important time to acknowledge the truth that both light AND darkness are holy and good.

The young man’s reaction to my mentioning the goodness of darkness was my first clue. He nodded, smiled, and his whole self said that he was feeling comfortable in this space. As the service ended, many of us moved to the foyer to chat, drink some hot beverages, and share stories.

I noticed that the young man stayed looking at our ministry display intently. So I approached him to introduce myself. He immediately opened up. I mentioned that I recognized him, perhaps from last year. He said he had not been here last year, but had been to “other random event here.” Perhaps that’s where I had seen him before.

As he continued to talk, he mentioned that he knew some of the students featured in our display. We chatted about this and how all these other young people of color were involved in one way or another with our ministry. He smiled. He was feeling more and more at home. Then, we talked about the ministry and our lives. He had grown up in church, he said, but things turned bad. He had served in young people’s ministries, had served on the Board of Deacons, had taught Sunday school to children, and had been preaching since he was fifteen. But his was a conservative Baptist church. It is also an African American church, and there were cultural aspects of his culture that were more conservative than what he would like. At some point, he decided to be himself, not to hide anymore. This did not sit well with his congregation. Now, he was church-less. But he had heard about this place, this ministry and safe space for LGBT students. He gave us a chance.

It felt like a rebirth; to find a faith community that is rooted in his faith tradition, one that welcomes him, that offers others like him opportunities for growth and leadership. Like the Phoenix, the ashes brought him back to life.

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Filed under Black, Black History Month, Church, Culture, ethnicity, Gay, Heritage, justice, Lesbian, LGBTQ, Queer, race, racism, Theology, worship

Seeing God in Abuela

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.
Psalm 27.10, KJV

My abuela Palmira left this world on March 30th, 2014. She was the last one of my grandparents to leave us. I had been blessed with three sets of grandparents as my father had two sets of parents, his birth parents, abuelo Quino and abuela Margot, and the couple of welcomed him into their family when he was quite young and working away from his hometown, abuelo Jobito and abuela Ester. My maternal grandfather, abuelo Juanito, left us when I was 8 years old but I still remember him very well. Every Sunday afternoon, when the family gathered at their home, he would sit on his rocking chair and tell us funny stories that would make us laugh for hours. Abuela Palmira would stand next to him and laugh with all of us.

Abuela Palmira   There was something peculiar about my maternal grandparents. They practiced Spiritism, a religion in which every human being is of sacred worth and where spirits guide us to be in communion with the Great Spirit that is sometimes called God. At their home, everyone was welcomed and celebrated. They never rejected anyone. My grandparents believed in serving everyone and in welcoming everyone without distinction. Although I was too young when my grandfather died and thus not even aware of my own sexual orientation, I know that my grandfather would have accepted me and celebrated me. My grandmother, however, had the chance to know who I am as a whole person and she always, without doubt and without excuses, celebrated me for who I am.

When I think about abuela Palmira, the verse that always comes to mind is that of Psalm 27.10: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” When my parents rejected me for being queer, it was abuela who welcomed me. She always supported me and celebrated my life. When I introduced her to my now husband, I was told that she spent months telling everyone who would listen about the wonderful man I had met. Recently, while talking with an aunt, she told me how they found among abuela’s personal items the wedding invitation I had sent her for my marriage. I knew she would not be able to attend my wedding due to health problems, but she had kept that invitation as an important memento. Through these actions, I can say that abuela embodied the Holy One in my life. Thus, when my parents disowned me, God took me up through the love, support and affirmation of my abuela Palmira.

The Sunday before abuela departed this world, my husband and I spent time with her. We had been in Puerto Rico for vacation, and of course I had to go visit abuela. She made us laugh with her witty remarks. This was abuela. She was always making jokes and laughing about things, even when her health wasn’t the best, she always found joy in living. I am not naïve to say that she was perfect, because none of us are. She had her flaws and made mistakes like the rest of us. But her love and support meant the world to me, and it is those values that will stay with me throughout my life. Her love, her support, her laughter that last time I saw her will always be the manifestation of God in my life. I will keep her memory alive as long as I live and I will always share with the world the values that she shared with me.

Abuela Palmira, you are now gone from us, as you would have said, you are now “unfleshed”, but your spirit will continue to guide me just as the spirit of abuelo Juanito has never left me. Gracias por todo, abuelita.

 

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Filed under amor, Culture, Dios, familia, Gay, Heritage, Hispanics, Latino, Lesbian, LGBTQ, Puerto Rico, Queer, Theology

Celebrating LGBT-Affirming Bapitsts

Today a Baptist minister who lived spreading a message of hatred and damnation to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities died. I do not rejoice in his death, nor do I feel particularly wont of publishing his name. I believe that the best thing to do with people like him – and with others who also have a message of hatred, such as a certain US Senator from Texas, a Governor from Arizona and others – is to retrain from publishing their names. After all, most of them are always looking for exposure. I prefer to publish the names of those who are working for justice and reconciliation…

AWAB logo

As I reflected on how the media and even LGBTQI organizations continued publishing their reaction to his death, I decided to take a different approach. This approach is more consistent with my principles of inclusion and reconciliation. Today, I want to make public the work of a Baptist organization that is hard at work opening the doors of our communities to LGBTQI individuals. The Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists (AWAB) was born out of the need to proclaim a message of inclusion, celebration and integration of LGBTQI individuals in the life of Baptists communities of faith.

In 1997 I was a junior at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez, and I was finally coming to accept my sexual orientation. As someone who grew up in a Baptist church, I could not imagine my life without a faith community. However, accepting my sexual orientation meant that there was no more room for me within the Baptist congregation in which I grew up. Although my childhood church was not proclaiming the same message of hatred as the recently deceased Baptist minister did, the truth was that there was not a message of inclusion either. The message of a God who rejected people with diverse sexual orientations was well ingrained in the overall message of my congregation.

This message of exclusion was so strong that many times I wanted to just disappear from this earth. I thought that I could just solve my problems by erasing myself from the picture. Several times I thought of ending my life, since there was no way that I could find comfort in the arms of a God who hated LGBTQI individuals.

It was at that moment, in 1997 during my junior year at the UPR-Mayagüez that I went to the library and started searching for answers. I clearly remember sitting in front of the computer and typing the words “gay” and “Christian” and “Baptist”. I had no idea of the surprise that awaited me! The first page that showed up on the search engine was that of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists.

Finding this organization helped me realized that I was not alone. I read the list of churches on that page and realized that, even though these churches were thousands of miles away from me – one of the earliest supporters of AWAB is the Church of Covenant in Palmer, Alaska, which is a few thousand miles away from Puerto Rico – there were people like me out there. Oh, what a joy! There were other gay Baptists out there! Not only that, but the page had their logo published, which at the time was the official logo of my denomination, the American Baptist Churches, USA, with the colors of the rainbow. I was so happy that I printed the logo and pasted it on my Bible. I have had that Bible with this logo for all these years… as a reminder of how AWAB saved my life and showed me that it is possible to be gay and Baptist.

This is my story. This is why today, instead of publishing the name of a Baptist minister who spent his life hating, I prefer to make public the name of the Baptist organization that helped me overcome my pain. I am glad that AWAB exists. I am glad that so many Baptist ministers have spoken out in favor of LGBTQI individuals, and that they have worked hard to include us the many Baptist communities of faith that joyfully welcome, affirm and celebrate the diversity of God’s creation!

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Lo que la decisión de la Corte Suprema significa para mi familia

Hoy ha sido un día histórico. La Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos ha determinado que el gobierno federal no tiene razón constitucional para negar los derechos a las parejas del mismo sexo que hayan entrado en contratos matrimoniales donde esos contratos sean aceptados. O sea, que si vives en un estado de la Unión donde el matrimonio igualitario es una realidad, entonces el gobierno federal tiene que reconocer tu matrimonio.

A veces pensamos en asuntos de derechos y los vemos como cosas que pasan “por allá”, “a otra gente”, pero pocas veces le vemos las caras a quienes se afectan por estos hechos. Pues hoy quiero que sepan que estos asuntos tiene nombres, apellidos, familias y que queremos futuros seguros. Mi esposo y yo somos parte de esas miles de parejas que, a partir de hoy, tenemos accesos a derechos que antes no teníamos. Hace un mes somos esposos. Hace poco más de un mes, mi empleador, la Iglesia Bautista Universitaria de Seattle (University Baptist Church) le ofrece seguro médico a mi esposo. Hace ya casi dos años que vivimos juntos, compartiendo todo en el hogar. Sí, el nuestro es un HOGAR. Somos una FAMILIA.

Pero no es hasta hoy que el gobierno federal ha reconocido nuestra relación.

Esta es nuestra situación: hasta hoy, teníamos miedo. ¿Por qué? Pues porque mi esposo está en este país sin los documentos necesarios para residir legalmente en los Estados Unidos. A pesar de que trabaja, paga impuestos, contribuye a la nación, tiene seguro médico, tiene familia en el país, etc., su estatus migratorio nos mantenía en vilo. Hasta hoy, no había nada que pudiéramos hacer. Vivíamos en miedo. Pero hoy ese miedo se ha convertido en alegría…

Hoy mi esposo y yo nos regocijamos de que podemos comenzar el proceso para normalizar su estatus migratorio. Hay por fin una luz – una luz intensa y esperanzadora – al final del túnel. Hoy, gracias a la decisión de la Corte Suprema, puedo patrocinar a mi esposo para que viva y trabaje legalmente en los Estados Unidos. Más que eso, ya no tenemos que tener miedos.

Estas decisiones cambian vidas. Esas vidas que esta decisión ha de cambiar son reales. No importa lo que fundamentalistas pseudoreligiosos digan, estamos hablando de personas, de familias, de seres humanos… Hoy, mi humanidad y la humanidad de mi esposo fueron afirmadas. Nuestros derechos fueron reconocidos. Derechos que hasta hoy solo eran el privilegio de parejas heterosexuales. Pero no. Hoy la Corte Suprema dijo que YO TAMBIEN SOY PERSONA y que mis derechos son tan importantes como los de cualquier otro ciudadano de este país. Mi familia es hoy feliz y no vive en miedo nada más.

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Filed under amor, boda, familia, Gay, Hispanics, Latino, Lesbian, LGBTQ, matrimonio, Puerto Rico