Friday, January 05, 2007

Best and Worst of 2006

I haven’t blogged for a while, not because I didn’t want to, but because, well, my life has either been not blog-worthy or not bloggable. However, feeling Janus-like, I thought I would try to sum up 2006—at least in my eyes, my experience, and may achievements (or lack thereof), as well as some hopes for 2007.

News Events—Positive Category
The election of the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, as Moderator of the Episcopal Church, USA. My own denomination was the first to elect a female head—Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches, in 2005—but the Episcopals were the first large, main-stream denomination to do so. You go, ECUSA!

The decision by Kings County in New York to allow transgendered people born in Kings County (one of the largest in NY) to change the gender recorded on their birth certificate. This means they can use it for other forms of identification with the correct gender. A huge step forward!

News Events—Negative Category

Murders, gay-bashings, transgender-bashing, lesbian-bashing, the abuse of children and animals and women, wars, famines, tsunamis, mudslides, earthquakes, genocide…need I go on?

Books I loved this year:
Drag King Dreams, Leslie Feinberg. I loved, loved Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues—sad and heart-rending, but oh so truthful and beautiful. So when I heard Feinberg (an activist for transgender, labour, minority and disability causes) had a new book out, of course I had to read it. Max (the main character in DKD) didn’t grab my heart the way Jess (main character in SBB) did, but Max has an individual story to tell. Feinberg did, I think, try to cram a bit much into the story—every cause Feinberg believes in (and they are many and they are all ones I agree with) is in the book. But New York comes alive—not the Fifth Avenue-Broadway-Rockefeller Centre New York, but the rest of it. Amazing book, fantastic writer.

The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler. Fascinating book on feminist spirituality. I don’t quite agree with all of Eisler’s conclusions, but I think she does have one thing right. Human beings have got to learn how to share power. Power-with, not power-over, is the only way we’re going to survive.

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Sue Monk Kidd. I know she isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I found her story of evolving spirituality compelling. It paralleled mine in many respects, so maybe that’s what drew me in! But she writes wonderfully, which helps, too.

Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs, Cheryl Peck. Hysterically funny stories, blog-length, about growing up lesbian in southwest Michigan. Laugh-out-loud funny. I mean it—I read it on an airline flight this summer; DP kept elbowing me because I was chortling and giggling and snarking out loud. So then she read it on the way home and had the same reaction. Special stories include the title one; “How Many Lesbians Does it Take?”; and “What She Lost.”

Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Yes, I know—this came out eons ago, when God was a buck private. And yes, I am just now getting around to reading it. However. Estes’ concept of women as needing to reclaim their “wildish” or natural selves really made me think about what I have put away, what I have stopped doing, as I became an “adult woman” or took on other roles. I realized that I have allowed all kinds of things to be put on me (or put them on myself), things that are not healthy or strengthening. You don’t have to accept all that she says, but she does have some real insights. And the stories are great.

Virtual Equality, Urvashi Vaid. This is a re-read, actually. I read it about once a year, just to do a mental check. Vaid was director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and remains a GLBT activist, so she has an insider’s view of the political manoeuvres that go on. She wrote the book way back in 1995, but, 12 years later, many of her points are still valid. Her contention is that any equality that GLBT people seem to have is virtual—like virtual reality, it exists only in certain circumstances not under the direction or control of the ones most directly affected. Any advances, any civil rights that have been gained are precarious and only remain by the whim of the majority--heterosexual voters—who are swayed by specious arguments and emotional (and false) appeals to the safety of children. She also argues that GLBT equality is not where it should be for two reasons. First, the umbrella of GLBT doesn’t really cover everyone—it’s really for white gay men and lesbians who live in suburbia and the nicer areas of cities. It doesn’t do much for transgender people, drag queens and kings, people who are HIV-positive, of colour, working-class, or without a college education. Second, the movement has chosen to work through nation-wide, large groups, like HRC and the NGLTF, rather than small, grass-roots groups, where everyone’s voice can be heard. Some of the book is outdated—same-sex marriage is legal now in Massachusetts and the Texas sodomy law was overturned—but Vaid’s passion is still a reminder that there is so much to be done.

The New Yorker. Man, I love that magazine. The incredible reporting, interesting fiction, the sly humour, the great cartoons, the little drawings that tell a story, the gallery and theatre listings that tell me what I’m missing…And the covers, too!

Best Things I Did in 2006

Retreat: My week-long retreat in October was wonderful beyond words. The solitude, the beauty, the freedom, were just what I needed. I cannot say enough about it. I have said this every time I mention it, but I will say it again—go on a retreat! Three days is minimum, more is better. Prayer, walking, thinking, reading, writing…no distractions, good or bad, rest, restoration. My dream is to go on retreat twice a year, apart from vacation or conferences. I’m working on a time in the spring when I could go.

Conference. The church conference this fall was outstanding! Even if I did run my tail off through over-committing… I saw friends I hadn’t seen in, literally, years, became closer to some friends, got to know some new ones, learned, worshipped, talked—the only thing I didn’t do was sleep…Next time, I’m in the conference hotel, I don’t care what it costs! This driving to another place fifteen minutes away adds up. But it was one of the best, if not the very best, church conference I have ever attended.

Pride Week: I was asked to give the opening prayer at the city council meeting during Pride week—the first MCC pastor so honoured and one of a very few women (perhaps three of us?). AND I got to ride in a Samoan Coral (that’s pink to most of us) 1965 Ford Thunderbird Convertible in the Pride Parade!

What I Want To Do in 2007

Write a book. I have about four in my head, and two partly outlined. I need to have some discipline and spend time everyday on one or the other of them. There’s much I would like to say (in case you hadn’t noticed—blogging isn’t for the silent types, is it?), and I need to get it out there.

Go on retreat again. Well worth the time and energy it takes to arrange it. Maybe one in the spring, one in the fall.

Take more Sundays off preaching. My new contract allows me to take one Sunday in four off—not that I have to, but I may if I like. I plan on taking advantage of that. I’ll still be there, leading worship—I just won’t be preaching.

Read more. DP will think I’m nuts, but I know RGBPs will understand. I need that t-shirt—so many books, so little time. There are professional books, and fun books, and some that are in the middle. There’s nonfiction, fiction, poetry, magazines, articles, webpages, blogs….

And if we’re talking wild fantasy here: spend a week this winter with my friends in Punta Gorda, Florida; and another week with friends in New York City. Maybe another week in Hermosa Beach, California (friends), and a fourth in central Pennsylvania (more friends).

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