On Valentine's evening of 2007, I had cleaned up from dinner, supervised homework and had our younger kids settled for the evening. Without a babysitter, my husband and I had decided to watch a movie and have a decadent chocolate mousse dessert together. I was moving in this direction, when our 14 year old daughter asked "mom, can I talk to you?" Something in her demeanor made me understand that this wasn't something she felt could wait. I sat down with her, with half of my mind still on chocolate.
She looked me in the eye, then cast her eyes downward. "What?" I asked, fairly sure I knew her answer. " I think I'm Bi". She looked up for my reaction. I blurted out the first thing that came to mind..."So?" She laughed, and tears sprang to my eyes. I was sad not because of her statement, but because I knew that "So?" would not be the answer she would encounter from everyone in her life.
We talked for a couple hours that night, trying to sort out true feelings from fiction, stereotypes from realities. I asked this beautiful young woman who as a girl always longed for "boys GAP clothes" if she felt she was transgender. She answered as honestly as she could with her 14 years of experience on this earth, that she didn't think so, but that she wasn't sure of anything anymore. She had dated a couple of boys, but expressed that she was attracted to women. At an age when all young people are trying to figure out who they are, our brave little girl was further defining herself. I held her and told her how much I loved her. I told her to take her time defining. We'd wait, and we'd love her no matter what.
Today that young woman is 22. She is still beautiful, and more talented that I can possibly relay. She taught herself to play the guitar. She sings. She is an artist. She is an excellent writer. She is a hard worker. She is a loving sister to her siblings, and daughter to us. She is in a relationship with a young woman whom we love. They're figuring out their own lives before deciding if their's is a forever love. If it is, we will welcome this young woman into our family as our daughter in law. If it isn't, we'll love them both anyway. For this reason, and for so many more, I am a strong advocate of marriage between any two people who love each other. (I become tired of hearing it defined as "gay marriage", because I don't go around announcing that mine is a "straight marriage.")
Recently I posted a video on facebook about marriage equality. I was the recipient of a hateful email in response to that posting. The email questioned why I would post a video about "two women having sex", when "that is an abomination." I read on, feeling sick to my stomach. The writer went on to question my morality, my faith, and my understanding of the Bible. Sadly, the video had nothing to do with anyone having sex. It portrayed the stories of couples in love, who happened to be of the same gender, who, in spite of long term commitments and unfailing love for one another could not marry due to laws. It was a work of poetry so tender it made me cry, and I posted it because I wish all people could love one another with such fortitude and certainty.
I thought about ignoring the email entirely. Why put any energy into that kind of ignorance? Then I thought about my children. I have always taught them that to ignore unkind acts and intolerant statements is just as bad as issuing them. To bow down and say nothing implies that the person's view is correct. It also leaves the burden on the recipient of the unkindness, as he or she must hold on to to negativity and wrestle his or her own feelings about it.
And so, I went to the Bible for my reply to the email. It lies not in arguing about the semantics of whether men should lay down together, or whether consuming shellfish is equally horrid. It lies in the verses that have been read at almost every wedding I've attended. It has been read at the wedding of a man and woman, of two women, of two men. It reads : "1If I speak in the tonguesa of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,b but do not have love, I gain nothing.4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. "
Funny...it doesn't mention gender. It doesn't even speak only to romantic love. To my understanding it speaks to how we are asked to be in this world. Unfortunately for my rising sense of self righteousness, it also speaks to my need to be loving toward the sender of the email. Readings from other religious texts and traditions remind me of my oneness with all. If this is so, then I am equal parts the victim and the perpetrator. It is my job to defend others who are unjustly criticized. It is also my duty to love the person who throws the barbs, even while vehemently disagreeing with his or her point of view.
And so, I'm left with much the same feeling I had on that February night all those years ago. I feel a sadness that, like "So?" love is not an automatic human response. Maybe that's because love, the kind that cradles and caresses all beings, is divine. If we are put here to learn love, then I have to thank the author of that email for challenging my heart today as much as I thank the producers of that video for touching it. I'll keep on loving the way that I do, and, yes, I'll keep speaking up....because Love asks me to.