Gretchen: Love is patient….kind. ... and a Certificate on paper, it is a good place to start. Love is….
Eleanor: Each of us brings a story to our gathering today…a story of why we are called to be here at this service of celebration. What is your story?
Maybe you are here because you or someone you love is not free to express their identity.
Maybe you are here because you or someone you love has not had their relationship fully recognized.
Maybe you are here because you know children with GLBT parents who need to grow up in a world where their family is perceived as good and beautiful.
When we share our individual stories, our hearts open and we are transformed.
As we hear each story we recognize that until all of us have freedom and dignity, none of us are truly free.
Whatever your story - we are all a part of a Big Story, A larger story for justice for GLBT people that is unfolding as we live it. We are writing this Big Story right now…in this moment.
Virginia: I started the Gay-Straight Alliance at my high school, which of course meant people started asking about my sexuality. Frequently and derogatorily I was called a lesbian. I was 14. I suddenly understood that my sexuality was first a social and political statement, and only second a personal experience of love, relationship, and connection to other human beings.
Gretchen: Love is patient. Love is kind.
Eleanor: A certificate on paper, it isn’t gonna solve it all.
Alyson: Last year, the Coming Of Age class at First Universalist volunteered at Rainbow Alley, an LGBTQ youth group in downtown. I got to talk to many people, including one girl who told me, she didn’t live at home, because her parents didn’t accept her for who she was, and that stuck in my head. If she didn’t live at home, where did she live?
Virginia: To this day, confusion about my own sexuality abounds. I try to separate out what I actually feel from my internalized homophobia.
Alyson: She was 16, not old enough to live on her own. Just barely old enough to work, and she also had to go to school. Where do you find enough time to get an education and make enough money to support yourself all on your own while being criticized by your own parents, the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally?
Eleanor: Love is patient. Love is kind.
Gretchen: Some would rather die - than be who they are.
Virginia: Yes, we should celebrate that we now have civil unions for same sex couples. But denying access to full marriage not-so-subtly insinuates that people who are lesbian, bisexual, queer, gay, trans - are still less than heterosexual cisgendered couples. Love and its expression continues to be regulated - LIMITED - by politics. By fear.
Alyson: Rainbow Alley is only open in the evenings. It closes at 9. She can’t sleep there. I know she isn’t the only one. She’s not even the only one I know personally. But what I can I do? What can we do?
Virginia: The young adults at the UU Church of Boulder have chosen to lead our whole church’s focus on LGBTQI issues for this coming year - because it is something that profoundly and personally impacts each of us.
Gretchen: We are a part of a big story.
Eleanor: A story we’re writing here and now.
Virginia: Marriage equality is a good place to start. Access to marriage for all says - no matter who you love, how you choose to celebrate that commitment - it is all the same. And yet for many people, other issues are even more pressing....access to health care, equal protection in the workplace, and yes, homelessness....up to 40% of homeless youth identify as GLBT, many of them kicked out of their homes due to their sexual or gender orientation.
Alyson: Rainbow Alley needs our support, our time, our money. And there are other organizations - across the front range that we can learn from, and with. Places like Urban Peak, a shelter for homeless youth, in both Denver and Colorado Springs.
Virginia: We all want to live in the world where who we love and how we express that love is guided fully by our hearts. Not by politics. Not by fear. I have so much unlearning to do. I am trying to listen to my heart.
Eleanor: Because there is no law that can change us, we have to change us.
Alyson: So many times I complain about how my life is so difficult. But I don't have to worry about finding a place to sleep at night. My bed will always be there. And my parents still love me no matter what, and they will accept me for whoever I choose to be and whoever I am.
Gretchen: Eleven years ago this past spring, my partner and I celebrated our non-legal commitment ceremony.
My parents, my sister, they couldn’t come. They weren’t ready. It broke all of our hearts.
But we stuck with it, kept in relationship with them, and them with us.
And this past May, on our 11th anniversary, my parents and my sister along with other family members, including our two children - joyfully - witnessed our legal civil union.
Over this past decade, my family, and communities all across this world - we did the hard work. GLBT people came out - over and over again. Despite the real risks, we were bolstered by the encouragement of friends- straight and queer, and of religious communities that said - you are worthy, just as you are, we were held in love by public events - like this one,
Held in love by a big faith
The faith of people - just like all of you -
And so we shared our stories. We offered ourselves in vulnerability.
And then people who loved us started to listen.
We didn’t seem so scary, I guess.
We just seemed like people.
Different, and the same. Just like all people.
This is what it feels like to be a part of a tidal wave of social change, built on courageous love.
And yet we know this past decade hasn’t all been pretty.
For every accepting family there is another whose story ended up like the teenager Alyson met.
And as her tale reminds us, these risks are not over yet. The fact that we have made some meaningful progress is not the same as the work being done. A civil union certificate IS just the start.
Virginia: There’s so much unlearning to do. So many stories we need to hear.
Gretchen: And so we ask us all to consider:
Where does love call us now? What stories do we need to hold in love now so we can bolster that next tidal wave of change?
Alyson: Love is patient. Love is kind.
Virginia: We are called to stand again - and not for the last time - on the side of love.
Eleanor: Love calls us on, in its great big story. It is still being written - its ending depends on all of us.
Gretchen: Building on this sense of celebration, our sense of progress - we must turn our attention to the continuing struggle. For my friends the story is not over, and our work for justice is just getting started. It’s time to write the next chapter. Time for us to go deeper into our communities. To hear the stories of dark storms that continue to rage.
To uncover those places of heartbreak and loneliness that have remained in the shadows. It is time to hear with compassion and open heartedness stories of being cast out, of feeling less than of carrying that burden of believing you are not enough
And it is time to meet these stories with a stronger commitment to action
A deepened partnership with ally organizations
A desire to understand the ways other struggles for justice overlap with advocacy for GLBTQ equality
It is time to strengthen our partnership across our congregations
And our relationship with other religious communities who share our values
For a gathering like this reminds us
We are so much stronger when we work together
We are so much more powerful when we stand together
And so from the strength of our solidarity
We continue to write this big story
Bringing our good news of love to more and more of the world
Creating a world where we all know -
We are all worthy
We all belong
And we are all, already, always enough.
Let our story continue on.
May it be so, and amen.