Sunday, December 20, 2009
Ollie, ollie infree! (The Fourth O Antiphon)
There had been, that very afternoon, a non-televised/broadcasted press conference at the State Department regarding the proposed law in Uganda. GLAAD was organizing a press briefing of LGBT religious leaders who were to be brought up to speed on the salient points. A panel discussion would then follow which would be taped and rebroadcast at a later date.
Susan was down with the flu and Louise couldn't get anyone from the Integrity Board to be part of this important event on such really short notice. Would I represent Integrity on the call?
Well, I'm not on the Board any longer, and it's been almost eight years since I've been in this role. Could she give me some 'soundbites'?
Louise was calling at 3:15 PM. The debriefing was at 4:00 PM. The panel discussion was at 4:30 PM. The panel discussion was going to be taped and broadcast later on the LGBT faith-based radio program "On Air with Tony Sweet"
That's his picture above. He is, isn't? Sweet, that is. Okay, okay. I'll have drool cloths ready for all the gay boyz and straight girls who insist on getting their heart broken.
If I could do it, I was to call the GLAAD contact ASAP. Not a whole lot of time for a refresher course in 'Soundbite 101'.
I moved some things around on my schedule, made a few phone calls, and was on the call promptly at 4 PM.
I must say, first, that we have some absolutely incredible leaders in the LGBT community. Intelligent. Articulate. Creative. Resourceful. Visionary. Strong. Courageous. Generous. Kind. Faithful.
I can only remember some of the folks on the program. Kapya Kaoma, the Anglican Priest from Zimbabwe who wrote the book Globalizing The Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches and Homophobia was on the call.
Then, there was Bruce Knots (I think that's how his last name is spelled), a 25 year veteran of the State Department, having served all those years in Africa, representing the Unitarian Universalist staff at the United Nations.
The briefing was very ably led by Mark Bromley who, along with Julia Dorf, are members of the Council for Global Equality and had been at the State Department Press Conference.
Charles Earhart (not sure if that's the spelling of his name) represented Metropolitan Community Church and Mary Ann Betty Burke, represented Dignity.
There were a few other folk who seemed to drift in and out of the call. Forgive me if I don't remember you all and especially if I really mess up the spelling of anyone's first or last name.
Finally, the amazing facilitator of the program was Ann Craig, Coordinator for Religion, Faith and Values at GLAAD. I don't know how she coordinated all those clergy and various dignitaries, mostly all at the very last minute - which has got to be as frustrating a task as herding cats - but she did it with grace and style and competence.
The State House Press Briefing had been called by Assistant Secretary of State, John (aka "Johnny") Carson. Mark Bromley, who was in attendance, was very favorably impressed.
It is very, very clear that the United States not only condemns, in the most forceful way, the proposed draconian laws in Uganda and Rwanda and the new law in Burundi, but also - ready for this? - will not settle for anything less than the decriminalization of homosexuality, not only in Uganda, but in any country with whom the United States has a relationship.
Mark kept saying that Assistant Secretary of State Carson was "very direct" and he felt that the support for this position came from the highest levels of government.
As soon as I get information about when this program will be aired/broadcast I'll let you know and post the link. Hey, I'm no Susan Russell, who is an absolute Rock Star and Queen of the Soundbite, but I think I held my own. You'll be able to tell when you hear it.
It was a bit like riding a bike, you know. I was a little wobbly at first, and I certainly wish I knew more of the Integrity programmatic talking points, but once I got the handle bars in my hands, my derriere in the seat and my feet on the pedals, I was fine.
Then again, I don't think you ever stop being an activist. Not if you're a Christian. Some of us are just more 'out front' than others. We all do our part, each in our own way.
Which leads me to repeat the one thing I do remember saying. Ann Craig was asking us how it is that we move forward, especially since the counter-charges from Africa always include "neocolonialism" and the "imposition" of the "Western Agenda" on the continent of Africa.
I have no idea what is on the "Western Agenda". I must have missed the memo on that one while I was mopping up the floors at the church after the last toilet blocked up. Then again, I never got the memo outlining the "Gay Agenda" either. Or the complimentary free toaster oven or electric blanket from the LGBT Recruiting Station.
Oh, I talked about IntegrityUSA's presence in Uganda, the Voices of Africa video done by Katie Sherrod and Cynthia Black, Blah, Blah, Blah. I mean, I was there as a representative of Integrity. I had do to my 'plug'.
All of that was just background music for the quote from Blessed Harvey Milk who said that every LGBT person who is able MUST come out of the closet. Now is the time.
It's so easy for us to be "objectified" - objects of disdain and scorn. We're "faggots and dykes" - like Vietnamese "gooks" and Jewish "Hebes"and German "Krouts". To one Anglican bishop, at least, LGBT people are "cockroaches".
It's a very easy next step from objectification to violence and from violence to murder and from murder to genocide. We've seen it over and over and over again.
Coming out does not provide automatic insurance against violence, hate crimes, murder or genocide. But, it does make it harder for those crimes to be committed.
You will no longer be a "faggot" or a "dyke", but just Mary and Sue. Or Brian and Steve. Joe the Plumber. Sarah the Electrician. Mark who owns the Coffee Shop. Jayne the Hospice Nurse.
When people know us, we are no longer objects, but regular people who don't have lifestyles. . . we have lives.
Oh, and yes. If you do come out, the cost will be high. If you happen to mention that you are an LGBT person, some will complain that you are "in their face". If you are out but not politically active, you will be considered "a good LGBT person" - i.e. "not in my face".
If you are who you are and talk about that freely - you know, like +Gene Robinson - you will be ridiculed for "pushing the gay agenda" and not "simply being the bishop he was elected to be."
I'm so tired of hearing from some circles in the church that Mary Glasspool was "not in your face" about her sexuality and "you'd never have known" she was a lesbian in the Diocese of Maryland.
And THAT, "they" say, is why she was elected. THAT, "they" say, is why she'll be a "good bishop" as opposed to +Gene Robinson. Gimme a break! Mary would be the first person to laugh at all that!
There's a children's hide-and-seek game where, when the game is over, someone yells, "Ollie, ollie infree!" It means that those who were in hiding can now come out.
There are lots of apocryphal stories about what that really means, but one story is that it's a corruption of the original German which meant "All the other outs are free."
Anyone who is on the "outs" - who are excluded because they've been in hiding - is now free. Amnesty has been declared. You can be who you are.
Ollie, ollie infree! All the other outs are free!
I think we need to call that to each other more often.
Game's over, kids. Ollie, ollie, infree!
Come out, come out, whoever you are.
If you are a straight allie, we need your support now more than ever. Indeed, we need you to take the lead on this - on human rights, marriage equality, parenting, anti-discrimination in housing and employment, hospital visitations - the whole enchilada.
It's not only important for your life, but for lives all over the world.
Indeed, there's an LGBT person in Uganda or Rwanda or Burundi whose very life depends on your honesty and integrity. Who needs to see the fullness of your humanity. Who needs your intelligence, creativity, vision, resources and faith commitment. They need your life in order to sustain their lives.
The world is calling: Ollie, ollie, infree!