Evangelical Political Idolatry Is A Threat To LGBTQ+ People: The Case of Roy Moore

The other day I was having a discussion with a friend about how LGBTQ+ people are deeply concerned about the political climate in America and how it will affect us now and in the quickly approaching future. What Roy Moore just said is a perfect example, a flashpoint, of why this is a dangerous time for our community. Here are some quotes from The Guardian article, “‘Maybe Putin is right’: Republican Senate frontrunner (Roy Moore) on Russian leader.”

In an interview with the Guardian’s Anywhere But Washington series, Moore also said that Ronald Reagan’s famous declaration about the Soviet Union being “the focus of evil in the modern world” might today be applied to the US.

“You could say that about America, couldn’t you?” he said. “We promote a lot of bad things.” Asked for an example, he replied: “Same-sex marriage.”

When it was pointed out to Moore that his arguments on gay rights and morality were the same as those of the Russian leader, he replied: “Well, maybe Putin is right.” He added: “Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know.”

Moore, who was forced from his job as chief justice after the Ten Commandments controversy in 2003, was later re-elected to serve as chief justice. His second stint as Alabama’s most senior judge also ended in controversy, after he was suspended in 2016 for refusing to obey the supreme court’s ruling on same sex marriage.

In his interview with the Guardian, Moore repeated his belief that Trump was put in the White House by God. “Everybody else thinks it’s the Russians,” he said. “I think it was the providential hand of God.”

For some context, the Russian “gay propaganda” law was passed in June of 2013. Since then, violence, kidnappings, and murder against LGBTQ+ people in Russia dramatically increased. They say the bill is to “protect children” Which is hogwash. The bill was meant to threaten and intimidate LGBTQ+ people into silence and appeal to social conservatives and religious activists. Because of this law and the oppressive systemic homophobia that produced it,  our brothers and sisters in Russia literally face the threat of death.

This is the public policy/leadership induced anti-lgbtq climate Roy Moore feels akin too.

In the late ’80’s I was violently attacked by two homophobic men. If it weren’t for two lesbians coming to my rescue, I am not sure what would have happened. The first time I was out in the ’80’s and early ’90’s I had guns pulled on me as I left gay bars. While not nearly as bad as decades before, I do know what it is like to live with a pervasive sense of fear outside our little gay safe havens. The LGBTQ+ community has come a very long way in 30 years, but there are plenty of people like Roy Moore who believe that stigmatizing my core relational sense of being is ok. They believe it is more than appropriate to disenfranchise us from the public and political realms because of who we love. They demonize (literally) my relationship with my partner, our future, and feel like it is ok to describe our relationship and family as a force of evil in the world.

And these addicted to power evangelicals are the people in power, bending the ear of the President, right now.

Roy Moore and evangelicals like him won’t be the ones who round us up for jail or worse, but they will create an environment I had experienced before, where I was sitting bleeding into the snow being comforted by my roommate and two lesbians while the police took my attackers word saying I had “hit on them” romantically (not true.) The police then laughed at me saying “I deserved it (the beating).” When you stigmatize, demonize, and disenfranchise, evil is the result.

When you stigmatize, demonize, and disenfranchise, evil is the result. When you prioritize political power and idolize government over loving your neighbor as yourself, evil is the result.

We cannot and will not let Roy Moore help usher in the environment where LGBTQ+ people have to live in silence and fear. I pray that good hearted people of Alabama will not elect him to the Senate and that we start right now with plans to overhaul Capital Hill in 2018.

Please also continue to support, love, and pray for our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in Russia.


Hat tip: Eva Kendrick and Photo Credit to NPR.

An Extra Seat At The Table (Memoir Excerpt)

(Excerpted From Chapter 3, Memoir)

At one time in my young adult party years, I was renting a couch (not a room, or apartment, a literal couch) for $40 a week. That’s when an unusual situation arose.

“Randy, you GO to that bible study!” was the somewhat loud and earnest voice coming from the phone. It was my Mom. She had called to see if Bruce had called me yet. Bruce was a guy I used to work with at the grocery store when I was sixteen. He is a stoic kind of quiet guy. He was built like a tank, awesome laugh, and would do just about anything to help anyone out. I had a crush on him for a while when we worked together. The reason my Mom was calling is that he looked her up in the phone book and called her asking about me. Apparently, he had prayed, and I was “on his heart.”

Bruce is SO Christian; so very Baptist-y Christian… bless his big ‘ol handsome heart!

So as my Mom was exhorting me to go to the Bible study, I told her, “sure, I’ll go.” She thought that was a good thing. I was thinking of Bruce’s good looks and only wanted to go so I could hit on him.

It’s true. I was only willing to go because of Bruce’s blue eyes, dimples, and straight up lust.

Bruce did call. I can even remember his voice all these years later. He did invite me to a Bible Study/potluck dinner he was having and offered to pick me up since I didn’t have a car.  The first few times we arranged for me to attend, I stood him up. Either I was still passed out from the night before or higher than a kite and couldn’t manage myself much less a conversation. He never got impatient, and I did eventually go to a couple of his group gatherings.

Nothing I did would sway him from his peaceful demeanor or get him to notice my flirtations. Oh and I tried! He would just laugh or joke around. When I went to the first dinner, I drug along one of my nonbinary gender friends. He was quite nervous, at first, about the whole thing. I told him, “NO wear your makeup. Let’s freak them out and laugh about it later.” He was game, so we went.

Don’t forget, this was the ’80’s.

After pulling up to the house, Bruce went ahead while we walked slower to the door. I extra Duran Duran’ed my hair. Got a larger hoop earring with a cross on it and while I didn’t prance or skip … I was as stereotypically gay as I could get on purpose. I hated Christians at the time, I wanted to shock them, and was only there to hit on Bruce.

I opened the screen door; the main door was already open. There were clanking dishes and about 15 to 20 adults and kids around. I was kind of hoping the women would shriek and run to gather their children in horror as the men formed a protective barrier between their tribe and us.

I was SO full of stereotypical expectations.

What happened was … nothing. My friend put his purse and coat down with the others at the front door. I decided to keep my jean jacket on. The kids went screaming by, and there was the sound of laughter as they tackled one of them, more dishes clanking, and soda pop being opened.

Then the lady of the house came up to us and said, “WELCOME! So glad you could make it. Randy! Right?!  It is nice to meet you finally. Bruce told me you both worked together at one time. Come on in and blah blah blah; We are going to pray for the meal and blah blah blah.”

As I sat there eating my not that bad spaghetti and garlic bread, I watched my gender fluid friend, the only black person in the house and the only male wearing bright blue eyeshadow and lip gloss. He was having a great time talking to everyone. I began to think that maybe I had misjudged these Christians.

Later, we circled up in the living room where the Bible Study began. They started reading a chapter from the bible. They passed the bible around from one person to the next. We were to read 1 to 3 verses. I thought for sure they would skip us. I am not sure why I thought this, but when the teen girl next to me handed me the bible, I was a bit shocked. I have no idea what I read, but I do know I read three verses … with extra enunciated eloquence of course. I then passed the bible to the friend who came with me, and again, he looked like he was thoroughly enjoying the whole thing.

After the reading and the teaching we prayed. Well, they prayed, and I watched them through my squinted eyelids.  During one prayer, one of the women referred to God as “Abba.” Not being raised in the church (except for 6 months of trauma with Brother Paul), I went up to her later and said, “Why did you call God ‘Abba’? The only Abba I know is the 70’s disco group…You know, ‘Dancing Queen?’” And she just laughed. Thank God she was honest and comfortable enough to laugh. With sweet eyes full of merriment she said to me “I call God, our Father, Abba because it’s a term of endearment. Abba is like saying, daddy. God loves us like a daddy.”

Right then her eyes turned from merriment to genuine compassion, and my heart was pierced through with that concept. I had never had a “Daddy” or at least one I would be “endeared” to. I credit this event, Mella’s compassion, and the Christians in Daytona as being the tipping points for my coming to Christ a few years later. I didn’t come to know Jesus that night, but I did come to know a different side of His people than I had ever thought was possible.

They were life-giving people, not shaming or ashamed of my “lifestyle” people.

Imagine a three-story high heart made of moss-covered stone and 100 feet in diameter. This stone heart battered by howling winds and driving rain. Many earthquakes have threatened to shatter this invincible hard heart, and yet it always remained, unmoved. Now imagine lightning hitting that hard heart as the teen girl next to me passed the bible; a tiny crack runs down the middle and burns away the moss. Then, at eye level to the ground, a chunk falls away. If you were to walk up and look into the now visible hole and squint, you would see in the distance a small light carrying the promise of the new creation I would become. … and the echo of a soul crying.

That night freaked me out. I now see it as a positive but back then I didn’t know what to think about it except I did pray my first honest prayer afterward. It consisted of one short little sentence to God, “Help me, please.” My friend who went with me, of course, thought it was great, that they were friendly people with good food.

Most importantly, this group of Christians allowed God to love them so they could love my friend and me without any strings, and without any pressure. I somehow knew then that they trusted and loved God, that they cared for strangers. They were hospitable, open, and funny. I was safe to receive their fellowship without fear or hostility. It made a big difference and opened my heart to consider the issue of Christianity differently.

Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of belief concerning God’s LGBTQ+ children, do you have an extra seat at your table?

#RESIST “You Should…” Christianity

Would you agree that there are a LOT of Christians out there “should-ing” all over other Christians? “You should do this… Maybe you should do that… What should happen is… A True Believer should hold this belief/position/moral position…” and on and on. Many times after hearing from them directly or reading other Christian’s posts along these lines, I am tempted to be discouraged. But then I remember a very relevant phrase from the lexicon of “90’s” support group cliches. I wish I could put up a big red neon blinking sign saying, “Stop ‘should-ing’ on me.”

In today’s climate, one tends to think that it’s the conservative branch of Christianity “should-ing” all over everyone else. I mean come on, they have been really good at it for decades now. But, it’s not limited to that branch in the Church. I see progressive Christians doing the same all the time. There are a couple of progressive Christian blogs that get incredibly large amounts of traffic for basically ranting against their conservative Christian siblings. Apparently, regardless of flavor, it’s popular for Christians to tell each other what they should do and how it should be done.

Of course, there are times to call out injustice, bullying, arrogance, and issues that oppress, alienate and disenfranchise. However, I believe it’s time to personally #RESIST the lazy nature of ranting and trying to impose “shoulda, coulda, woulda…” Christianity on others (regardless of whatever perspective we are coming from.)

Yes, I am saying ranting is lazy. Just an opinion :).

I confess I can be pretty should-y myself. I am not afraid to own that; you know, strong personality and whatever. I’mma do me; you do you, Boo. However, I commit to resisting the temptation to “should” on people. I want to work out my own faith by actually living out what I believe in both public and private. I want to compel with reason, motivate through inspiration … not seek to manipulate the like-minded with anger or disparage opponents (or even enemies) with scorn and shame.

Maybe you can relate.

“When We Rise” (Review)

This week we experienced an amazing television series about the LGBT+ movement’s history titled “When We Rise.” It is based on the memoir of the amazing Cleve Jones.

To my knowledge, this is the first time our community’s history has been documented this way. It has received some backlash about ratings and portrayals of conservatives (of course), but that does nothing to diminish the series importance and power to positively impact our community, efforts, and country.

The power of the series was its ability to have many stories unfolding on the screen and in my memory at the same time. Simply powerful and often overwhelming. Here are a few examples:

  • When the cops hurt and threatened the characters on the screen, I vividly remember bleeding in the snow after suffering a physical assault (one of many). I remembered feeling powerless and hopeless as the cops talked to and took the word of my attackers (that I had flirted with them…not) and then the police officers turned smirking and saying, “he got what he deserved.”
  • When the AIDS pandemic first manifested as depicted in San Francisco, the looks on their faces and tears of terror, we experienced those exact emotions as the gay community in Nashville was also decimated. I remember, vividly, erupting with grief in a Krystals burger place at 3 am one morning when I found out my first boyfriend (we had broken up by then) had died of AIDS. He didn’t even know he had it until two weeks before he died.
  • When the AIDS Quilt went to DC in the series, I remembered and grieved, again, my friends who have been memorialized with panels in the quilt.
  • During the third and the beginning of the fourth installment, I felt the guilt of having betrayed my own community. I went into the church closet in 1992 and eventually was vocal in my opposing of LGBT+ rights.  I remembered everything that happened that was shown (and more) but from an opponent’s viewpoint. The contrast of the emotions from being in the community, to being an opponent of the community, and now trying to find my place in our community, broke my heart. After the third show, I cried myself to sleep.
  • When they showed the Prop 8 Protests, I remembered seeing that footage after a night of celebrating the passage of it. At the time, when I saw the footage, a small voice inside my head said, “How could you do this to your own people?” I wept then and wept again when I saw the same people and protests in the movie. It would take quite a while, but it was that moment that began my return home to the LGBT+ community and living an honest, authentic life.
  • When Ken Jones left his conservative church environment in the series, I saw his heart in his eyes (very well acted) when he recognized his LGBT+ brothers and sisters in Christ as authentic believers.
  • When DOMA was struck down on-screen, I remembered being silently happy and wanting to join the celebration but feeling, at that time, I couldn’t. At that point, it was another moment of being compelled to come out again which happened a little while later.
  • The sentence they showed at the end of the Supreme Court recognizing our right to marry, I remember the country erupting with joy, Facebook turning into a rainbow, and texting/calling my boyfriend at the time simply elated and crying with happiness all day. Also, I joined the Orlando community that night at a fantastic celebration. It was one of the best, and most memorable, days of my life.

Of course, the binary unfolding of the series and the stories that weave throughout my journey happened ALL throughout the series. I know some of the conservatives portrayed and a LOT of the specifics of the behind the scenes details. I don’t get invites to conservative shindigs anymore, and I am ok with that ;). I have met some of the gay rights leaders portrayed in the series as well. But as importantly, maybe, more importantly, I remember all the amazing people I was honored to be in a relationship with and their stories throughout almost the entire timeframe documented in the series.

Powerful.

When We Rise, even though based on a memoir, told all our stories. There is no way to document the entirety of almost 50 years of history in 8 hours, but they did a great job in showing both the big vision and personal impact of the events that unfolded. I also love that it showed humility by revealing our strengths and some of our weaknesses as a movement. I am very proud to live in a country that, at times, is willing to humble itself (ourselves) and correct wrongs. A country that at our core does want to bring further equality and freedom to people who deserve the exact same right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

We rose. We are rising. We will rise. No going back.

Thanks to all those who pursue(d) full equality and justice for LGBT+ people.

Thankful for the Most Amazing Miracle of All… You

randythomas-blogThis Thanksgiving, while meditating on all that I have to be grateful for, I keep getting stuck on the word “miracle.” One definition of “miracle” is:

.. an extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.

  • Genuine Friendship is miraculous.
  • Selflessness, Sacrifice, Humility … all miracles.
  • Compassion, Passion, Service … miracle, miracle, miracle.
  • Love is miraculous.

As a Christ follower, I believe we are “made in the Image of God.” Some people believe that to be in our physical appearance and religiously taught gender attributes. I am not sure about how much those might play into it or not. What I clearly see in our faith’s scriptures, and in my personal relationship with our Creator, is that our Creator definitely wants us to know Him and to know that we are known by Him. He wants us to love Him and to allow ourselves to be loved by Him.

To know and be known, to love and be loved. That’s the Divine Image we bear. It’s a transcendent state of being that miraculously facilitates the greatest of Jesus’ teachings, which is to love God with our whole being and to love others as ourselves.

In this world, to have even a glimpse of this heart-wired relational and loving dynamic is to witness a miracle.

In that spirit, this Thanksgiving, when I consider all that I have to be grateful for, I think of you. You are known and loved; “miracle” is the only perfect word for what I see in who you are.

You are miraculous.

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Getting Tested for HIV at Orlando Pride

Many things happened last Saturday at Orlando Pride, but in this post, I wanted to share about how I ended up doing something I hadn’t even thought of as a possibility during the festival; getting tested for HIV. My friend Crumpy and his friend New Baldy (both nicknames obviously) mentioned the possibility of getting tested right there, right then. So, I did.

The last time I was tested was the first time I was out in the ’80’s. Back then, to get an accurate test result, you had to wait for 3 to 6 months after the risky behavior. Early on in the pandemic, it seemed like almost everything was risky behavior. Many of us lived in constant fear of AIDS. When you got tested back then, they drew vials of blood and sent them off to be tested in a lab. Then, you waited for what seemed like an eternity (at least several weeks, one time for me it was longer) for the results.

It was always scary to get tested back then because so many people and friends had passed away very quickly after they found out. The first man I ever was “with” in that most intimate of ways passed away from AIDS. He didn’t know he had AIDS until a few weeks before he passed. I can remember, with crystal clarity, the night I found out he had died. I was in a Krystal fast food place after the bar closed and literally broke down in sobbing grief when a mutual friend told me. One, because he, Ron, had died. Secondly, because of our sexual history, I thought for sure I had contracted HIV, too.

Compounding the problem, the religious and cultural stigma of gay men was horrible to begin with. That same systemic bigotry used HIV/AIDS to only make things worse as gay men. It was an incredibly difficult time.

Now, decades later, here I was walking up to a mobile clinic (a fancy truck/van), and everyone was super nonchalant about it. As I walked up a couple of stairs into the mobile clinic, I didn’t show it, but I was genuinely fascinated that this could all be done in a “mobile clinic.” I understood you could give blood in mobile blood donor buses, but had never thought you could do something like this as a mobile testing service AND get the results right there. Amazing. Even so, fascination changed to fear as the doctor introduced himself. My gut turned inside out with a flash of sorrow as long-ago memories and a moment of fear tried to resurface.

Regardless, I sat down in this itty-bitty chair in this itty-bitty mobile clinic doctor’s office, where a very nice doctor with an Indian accent and blue rubber gloves covered all his educational and legal bases. Then he took an itty-bitty pin needle punch type of mechanism and pricked my middle finger. He squeezed out about two drops of blood (instead of two vials.) Then mixed my blood with three itty-bitty solutions (looked like the mixing was done in a particular order) and then he said;

“Mr. Thomas, we got the result as you can see by the one blue dot, you are HIV negative. Did you expect this result? Are you surprised in any way?”

I said that I expected it to be negative. I didn’t go into the fact that the only sexual activity that I have had with another person in 25 years was a guy I dated last year. He and I had deeply honest conversations/preparation so by the time we did come together, we knew neither of us had STD’s and were HIV negative. No, I wasn’t surprised by the result, and yet a part of me was relieved.

Sitting there I was astonished at how simple and fast the test was. It took less than ten minutes; maybe even less than five. When I walked out, I smiled at the youngins’, New Baldy and Crumpy with his new flip fan (I let him have mine that they were giving to people who got tested.) As they chatted on and on, I didn’t say anything to them but I thought how grateful I am that they live in a world where you don’t have to live in fear of being seen to go get tested. I was happy they had mobile clinics with quick results instead of living with high anxiety for weeks or months on test results that were not anywhere near as efficient and accurate as today’s tests.

And as Crumpy and New Baldy laughed and picked on each other for various reasons, I remembered Ron and some of the friends we lost when they were that age. Today, I was glad these young men still take this health issue and process seriously. I also felt peace to know that if any of us did find out we were HIV+, there are many options, resources, and possibilities for living a long and beautiful life like many of my HIV+ friends have.

If you have not been tested, please do.

Being free is good,

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