Saturday, November 26, 2011

Special GRITS gathering Wednesday Nov. 30 You're invited!

"Ahh the holidays. Time for family, friends, the food. Sometimes Thanksgiving can be stressful. Were you and your relationship served up as the main course? Relax. Breath. Come to the next GRITS meeting 7 p.m. Nov. 30 where we'll all unwind, share holiday stories, laugh, pray, eat, support one another AND bring your dreams as we make plans for the 2012 future GRITS sessions and create a team to make it happen.

Things we're considering:
-Growing GRITS to twice a month meetings with speakers from area churches.

- GRITS outings: dinner anyone

-GRITS church visits: hey we are gay Christians, some of us don't have a church and are kinda shy about finding one. Go as a group.

-GRITS study sessions: what keeps you strong in the storm, how have others before you?
We'll be reading,learning and discussing the works of strong gay Christians including Rev. Melanie Morrison, Rev Candace
Chellew Hodge and your choices . . .

-GRITS action:
The idea of GRITS (God Rocks In The Stream) is creating and nurturing vocal, visible, strong LGBT Christians and allies. Standing strong in heavy currents. Being the one that stays and changing the course of the difficult conversations. Are there community projects we want to tackle/support as gay Christians in 2012?

Who we are:
We are in our 20s to 80s. We are churched and unchurched. We are struggling and solid. We are part of GIFTs "Gay Christian? Yes!" Campaign.

We provide unconditional love and support to one another through prayer, study, fellowship, fun, connections and collaborations. We are preparing ourselves for the reactions that will come in April 2012 as the "Gay Christian? Yes!" billboards are unveiled and we are letting the world know that yes, you can be gay and Christian. Yes, you can be an ally. Yes, you can be person of faith and LGBT.

Join us, see how much better we can be together!

GRITS meetings are held in The Vine, enter the rear southwest door of the First Place Bldg, 207 E Fulton Street, beneath the GIFT offices.
For more information call Theresa at 774-0446.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why we hold the Transgender Day of Remembrance and Hope

By Theresa D. McClellan
Faith Advocacy Coordinator
Gays In Faith Together

Less than 200 miles from Grand Rapids, a mother is grieving the loss of her 19-year-old child who was born male and self identified as a beautiful woman named "Treasure."

She was mutilated, burned and left on the ground like a piece of trash.

The publicized reactions by some, who read of this horrendous murder in Detroit last month focused on whether the victim, was male or female. Really?

The mother had to identify the torso of her loved one. The details are horrific. But because the one who was violated, is a member of the transgender community, one of the marginalized ones, there has been little outrage.

This is why we hold the Transgender Day of Remembrance. For all the non-conforming treasures out there who are cast aside. For all the mothers who are not allowed to fully grieve, their loss clouded by inane, insensitive, inappropriate questions, speculations and comments. For all those whose lives have been lost around the world to violence because they did not conform to the sexual roles expected of them.

We hold the Day of Remembrance for those who have been slain. We hold this day of Remembrance and Hope for those non-conforming transgendered friends who have come through the journey and found solid footing.

We also hold the Day of Remembrance for the allies who are willing to stand up and say "Enough" to those who see bullying, violence and murder as sport.

By the end of the Transgender Day of Remembrance and Hope service on Sunday November 20, 2011, participants will have celebrated all the ways that we are while recognizing the toll of violence being who you are has on the Gender variant community.

It is on that tightrope of remembrance and hope that allies and gender variant people will reveal how we can make a difference and change the course of bias, said organizers.

These messages of remembrance and hope will be interwoven into a service featuring a thought-provoking message from nationally known activist and educator the Rev. Dr. Julie Nemecek, soul-stirring music and presentations from the gender variant community.

The service will be held 6:00 p.m. Sunday November 20th at Plymouth United Church of Christ, 4010 Kalamazoo Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI. The service is being planned by the Transgender Education Collaboration, Transpectrum, Plymouth United Church of Christ and GIFT (Gays In Faith Together).

"So often transgender and gender variant people go through their lives unnoticed by others. But there are exceptions where bias prejudices and even violence makes life impossible and all too often cut short for people that do not follow the societies’ ideas of gender,” said transgender educator and activist Jena Lewis.

“We hope that by both taking the time to remember, but more importantly to celebrate gender variant people, we can help open eyes in the community, and maybe even open doors for gender variant people." said Lewis.

Through the sharing of stories, reading of names and visual presentations, the service will create a space where all are free to be. There is hope that the service will serve as a springboard of action for others wanting to make Michigan and the rest of the world a safer and more informed place for the transgender and gender variant communities. Following the service, organizations such as the Transgender Education Collaboration (TEC) will have information and make connections during a reception for all present, said event co-organizer M Kelley.

A planning team, led by Lewis, Kelley and VanDoren have been working to create a space where there is space for hope and remembrance. The service will have secular and spiritual overtones as recognition that some in the transgender community have been shunned by religious traditions and would not feel comfortable in a church setting.

My faith tells me God rejects no one. So when anyone is rejected by the church, or church followers it is our role to make sure that everyone knows the outstretched arms of God embrace all, even if you've been told God does not live in or believe in you.

Please join us:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What is the future for Gay Christians in West Michigan?

By Theresa D. McClellan
Faith Advocacy Coordinator
Gays In Faith Together

On Thursday night, crowds will pour into the Loosemoore Auditorium on the downtown campus at GVSU to watch the free premier screening of the People's History of the LGBTQ community in Grand Rapids.

From the trailers and descriptions posted on the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy, (GRIID)website, we will hear interviews, see archived Grand Rapids Press news clippings, and television news broadcasts about the struggle for justice and equality by the LGBTQ population in Grand Rapids.

We will see familiar faces from Grand Rapids' past and hear stories that make us cringe in pain over the blatant discrimination, dismissal and demonization of who we are. We will rise up in our seats in recognition of those who paved the way before us. And if we are really listening and not just socializing, we will ask ourselves what is my role, what can I do?

The faith community is an important piece and continues to be an important piece of that struggle. We will see how people of faith wielded their religion to restrict, and we will also see how people of faith stepped up and reclaimed a vision of a God of love and hope.

As we watch our history, as revealed on this screen, consider where you fit in and consider how you represented your faith? Also consider, how do you want to be seen in the future? And before and after the movie, stop by our Gays In Faith Together (GIFT) table and see where you can fit in in making West Michigan a beacon of hope for all with our "Gay Christian? Yes!" Campaign that will launch publicly in 2012.

Our mission is to "proclaim the love of Christ for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBT) people and their allies and to affirm their presence and inclusion in the Christian community."

For some, that mission is pretty radical. As followers of Christ, we see it no other way. Which is why we are launching a bold, exciting, blessed and Spirit-filled Campaign that will launch publicly during the 50 days of the Easter season 2012 and continue at least through 2013.

We are forming a collaboration of churches, other organizations and individuals to lay the groundwork for this exciting campaign. There is a lot of movement in Grand Rapids and West Michigan on LGBT concerns that will affect the history and future of who we are and how we are in this community and beyond.

So make sure you also visit the tables of others such as Holland is Ready and TEAM as well as the gay-friendly churches present. And after the movie, some of you will consider joining the fundraiser at the neighborhood pub The Meanwhile Bar where the Until Love is Equal group has gathered.

Let us create a groundswell of hope and support and action.

In creating this work, GRIID creator Jeff Smith explained it this way.

"There is an underside to every age about which history does not often speak,

because history is written from records left by the privileged.

We learn about politics from the political leaders, about economics from the entrepreneurs,
about slavery from the plantation owners, about the thinking of an age from its intellectual elite."

Howard Zinn

Following the model of radical historian Howard Zinn, this project involves the documentation of the history of the LGBTQ movement in West Michigan.

By doing interviews and collecting archival material, this project has produced a documentary film and an online archive of material about the struggle for equality and justice by the LGBTQ community in West Michigan. The screenings of “A People's History of the LGBTQ Community in Grand Rapids” will allow for continuing dialogue about the LGBTQ movement and provide a forum for current and future organizing.

This is a project of the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy. The LGBT Resource Center is proud to be a co-sponsor along with GVSU’s Kutsche Office of Local History.

Come join us Thursday 6:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Loosemoore Auditorum in downtown Grand Rapids on the GVSU campus.

We will be there. I hope you will also. Because our vision for West Michigan is "that every LGBT person may walk freely in the love of Christ."

That has not been our history. May it be our future.