Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I didn't speak up, and my conscience is ruffled

I didn't speak up.

And now I have that same feeling I do when I was led to speak in Meeting for Worship, or Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, but didn't.  Or when someone has insulted me, or someone else in my hearing, based on religion, gender, class, or something similar, and I didn't speak up.

My conscience is ruffled, like the surface of a body of water is ruffled when it is disturbed.  This uneasy feeling won't leave me.  I am not at peace.

I was at General Meeting for ScotlandAs I mentioned earlier, Meeting for Business opened with this quote from Britain Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice:

I have been greatly exercised for some time by the image we like to present of ourselves (albeit with beating of breasts) as a white, middle-class, well-educated group of heterosexual people, preferably in stable marriages with children that behave in socially acceptable ways. I do feel that this is a myth. The danger of such myths is that we exclude many potential Quakers who feel they cannot/do not live up to the image or who feel that such a group is not one with which they wish to be associated. Sadly, many of us within the Society who do not fit in feel marginalised and second-class.

Another effect is that many problems faced by a large proportion of people are seen as separate: people who are poor, facing oppression, living in poor housing, experiencing prejudice are the 'others'. This enables us to be very caring but distant (and sometimes patronising) and also makes it difficult to be conscious of prejudice behind some of the normally accepted assumptions of our society/Society, such as that people who are unemployed are a different group from those who have employment; that poor people are poor ... because they are not as bright or as able as the rest of us or because their limited homes did not give them the opportunities that a good Quaker home would have done; that children living in single-parent families are automatically deprived by that very fact.

Until we as a Religious Society begin to question our assumptions, until we look at the prejudices, often very deeply hidden, within our own Society, how are we going to be able to confront the inequalities within the wider society? We are very good at feeling bad about injustice, we put a lot of energy into sticking-plaster activity (which obviously has to be done), but we are not having any effect in challenging the causes of inequality and oppression. I do sometimes wonder if this is because we are not able to do this within and among ourselves.

Susan Rooke-Matthews, 1993

This spoke to me deeply, and spoke to my condition.  (It also reminded me of this post.)

General Meeting for Scotland "acts on behalf of Britain Yearly Meeting in such procedures as may be required by the Scottish parliament and Scottish legal affairs." A big Scottish governmental item right now is the Scottish Government's Consultation on same-sex marriage.  And so one of the items on our agenda was the General Meeting's response to the this consultation.  (For more information about the consultation on same-sex marriage, click here.)

Friends involved with the working group for the response presented the draft of "A general statement to accompany the response submitted on behalf of The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), General Meeting of Scotland." 

Beloved Wife and I found this a deeply moving document.  It speaks not only of equality, but also of religious liberty, of conscience, and of not imposing our discernment on other religious faiths.

However, there was one part of it which made my heart pound in a different way.  The very first sentence begins:

"Quakers are a non-hierarchical and Christian body..." 

I was not in unity with this statement.

And I didn't speak up.

...Why didn't I speak up?

I  know that there is a sizable minority of Friends in Britain who are most definitely not Christian.  I am honestly not certain yet if Britain Yearly Meeting or Friends in Britain consider themselves a Christian body or not.  Looking later, I find the Quakers in Britain website states, "The Quaker way has its roots in Christianity and finds inspiration in the Bible and the life and teachings of Jesus" (which can be interpreted as Christian, or as Christian-rooted but not by definition Christian); Britain Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice Introduction begins, "This book of faith & practice constitutes the Christian discipline of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain" (which sounds explicitly Christian to me). 

I am even less certain how Friends in Scotland see themselves.  There's quite a bit of theaological diversity among Friends I've met here, with a lot less fuss about it than in most parts of the States I've lived or traveled in.  A lot of Pagan Friends have come out to me since I've arrived here.  Even more people have told me about other Friends they know who are Pagan, some of whom are in the broom closet, some of whom are out.  A lot of Friends seem very Pagan-friendly without worrying about whether other people will think they're Pagan, which I find tremendously refreshing.  A few Buddhist Friends have also come out to me.  So do Scottish Friends see themselves as primarily Christian, with some non-Christian members?  Do they see themselves as rooted in or springing from Christianity, but with a membership which is diverse in theaology, and that diversity essential to the body?  (A third way?)

The Quakers in Scotland website states, "Quakerism is a non-credal religion, with Christian roots, whose worship is based on silence and listening to the spirit."

(It doesn't say, "...listening to the Inward Christ," which would be clearly Christian, or even, "...listening to God.")

My experience of Quakerism and of Friends in the US and the UK is that Quakerism is not Christian.  I know too many non-Christian Friends: Pagan Friends, Non-Theist Friends, Jewish Friends, Buddhist Friends, not-sure-how-to-label-themselves or not-willing-to-label-themselves Friends, who are not Christian.  I know too many Quaker bodies which do not identify as Christian, though they acknowledge their Christian heritage. The Monthly Meeting and Yearly Meeting in the US where I still have my membership are theaologically diverse, and while in both bodies we acknowledge our Christian roots, we do not identify as Christian.  My Monthly Meeting at one point was clearly led not to renew our membership in an interfaith organization which was restricted to Christian organizations; even though most of our Meeting's members are Christian, many are not, and we felt in good conscience we could not allow ourselves to be identified by others as a Christian church. 

The lived, experiential truth of real-life Friends is that Quakerism is not limited to Christianity.

Therefore, it's not accurate to say Quakers are Christian, or that as a body we are Christian.

Yes, it may be perfectly accurate to say a particular body of Friends is Christian.  If that body is in unity about such a statement.  

But that body cannot speak for all Friends, and cannot speak categorically for Friends.

Whether Quakerism is majority Christian is completely beside the point.

Quakerism is majority straight, white, middle-class, cisgender, and (temporarily) able-bodied, but we would never say, categorically, things like:
  • "Quakers are a non-hierarchical body and white body..." (or, "Quakers are a non-hierarchical body of people of European descent...")
  • "Quakers are a non-hierarchical and heterosexual body..."

...and so forth.

I, sitting there in that room, a Friend in Scotland to whom that document applied, am not Christian.  And I was not in unity with that statement, "Quakers are a non-hierarchical and Christian body..."  (Not any more than I would have been in unity with any of those other statements above.)

So: why didn't I speak up? 

I had several options in that moment.  I could have asked a clarifying question.  I could have stood aside, not blocking, acknowledging that this was still rightly-ordered for the body even though I was not in unity with it.  If I truly felt that saying "Quakers are a... Christian body" is not true and is a violation of the testimony of integrity for us as a body, that this was doing violence to non-Christian Friends and to all Friends in Scotland General Meeting, I could have gone further, but I would have had to have been very, very clearly led.  (Which I was not; what I was, was deeply uncomfortable.)

I felt deeply uncertain if, in our diversity, Scottish Friends are in unity about being a Christian body. 

So: why didn't I ask? 

I could have found out very easily.  I could have stood up to be recognized by the Clerk, and asked that question: "I know Friends in Scotland are theaologically very diverse and that we have a substantial number of non-Christian members.  Are Friends in Scotland in unity that we are a Christian body?"  

When I put myself back in that room, with my pounding heart and that sinking feeling in my stomach, why didn't I ask, why didn't I speak up?

...I was afraid.

That's really what it was.  I was scared.  

I am so very conscious of being new here, even though I'm a member and even though, well, I'm here; I'm not going anywhere.

I'm so very conscious of being an American, though I'm trying to get over this so I can just listen to the guidance of the Goddess and be who She grows me being.

I'm so very conscious of being an out Pagan Friend, with an out ministry to other Pagan (and non-Pagan) Friends.  I feel exposed.  Back out there dancing on that limb by myself again.

I'd already asked a question that morning, which I felt was misunderstood and taken in a direction I hadn't meant at all.  

There are other areas of my life where I feel criticized for "talking too much."

Most of all, I guess I was afraid of that cascade of things that can happen, that does happen all too often, when I stick my head up as a minority.


Even though the issue we were already talking about was one of justice for a minority among us -- what's more (!), one of which I'm a member, and pretty obviously, too, sitting there holding hands with my wife, who'd also given vocal ministry as a member of a same-sex couple.

I didn't want to go there.  I didn't want those things to start happening.  I didn't want to feel more alone.  I didn't want stand up, expose myself as a further minority within my community, and risk things like being more isolated, having my concerns not heeded or simply not seen, being put down or dismissed because I'm a minority and therefore less/not important/because I'm not Christian and therefore less/not important, being told yet again that of course Quakerism is Christian even if not all Quakers are Christian, or that reality and the truth are too complicated for us to present to outsiders/too complicated for this document/not relevant to this issue...

...As if integrity and the truth are ever too complicated or irrelevant to our testimony and witness in the world and to each other.

And I kept hoping that lovely thing that sometimes happens in worship or worship for business would happen -- you know, where someone else says or brings up something, and then you don't have to.  Every other thing I was at all uncomfortable about in the draft, someone else brought up.  I really hoped someone else could be in the spotlight on this one and I would be off the hook.

It didn't happen. 

I decided to let it go, to trust the working group, to wait and see what I could find later about the supposed Christianity of Friends in Scotland.

My discomfort hasn't gone away, despite my determination to trust the working group and Meeting for Business.  And now I am acutely uncomfortable.  My peace of mind is all rumpled.

The week after General Meeting, a quote attributed to me started making its way around one particular corner of the internet.  It comes from an on-line conversation where I was describing my interpretation of part our discernment in Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC) about our changing our name.  I protested it being attributed to me -- I was interpreting, and quoting! -- but I got stuck with it.

"Our fears and other people's prejudices can not determine how we live our witness in the world and among Friends."

I am so busted.

So.  What am I going to do about my disquiet?  

I don't know yet.  Clearly, I need to do something.

In the meantime, I am listening for the Goddess to help me discern what.

And sitting in my discomfort.

And writing about it here.

I find I am feeling all sorts of reluctance to hit the "publish post" button.  I don't think I'm any more eager to post this post than I was to stand up in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business.

But I very clearly need to.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Winter Solstice 2011

bread and roses spiritual nurture

The 2011
Winter Solstice Celebration
Celebrate the Darkness and the Light
with Songs and Stories

Saturday, 17th December, 7:00-8:45 pm
doors open 6:45 pm
celebration 7:00-8:45 pm; social time following

St. John's Church Halll
Princes Street & Lothian Road
  • Songs, stories, candle-lighting, silent meditation, singing, and more  
  • Suitable for children and adults; children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian
  • Sliding-scale donation requested to cover the costs of hall hire and supplies; all are welcome regardless of ability to make a donation. (Any proceeds after expenses will be donated to a charity.)
  • For disability accessibility reasons, please do not wear perfume/essential oils or other personal care products with fragrance
More information:
or click here for the Facebook event page

by Julie Forest Middleton & Stasa Morgan-Appel. 
for locations of other such Winter Solstice Celebrations, 
see and click on "Winter Solstice Celebrations" (or click here)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quote of the day

Without the context of a political movement, it has never been possible to advance the study of psychological trauma. The fate of this field of knowledge depends on the fate of the same political movement that has inspired and sustained it over the last century. In the late nineteenth century the goal of that movement was the establishment of secular democracy. In the early twentieth century its goal was the abolition of war. In the late twentieth century its goal was the liberation of women. All of these goals remain. All are, in the end, inseparably connected.
-- Judith Lewis Herman, M.D., in Trauma and Recovery

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thinking about forgiveness and reconciliation

For a handful of reasons, I have been thinking again about forgiveness, reconciliation, and healthy limits.  And about responsibility and justice, as well.

My dear f/Friend Peterson Toscano wrote this insightful piece recently:

"Some Thoughts on Forgiveness"

What Peterson wrote resonated with me, and intertwined with some other things that have been simmering quietly in the cauldron, or are newly on the front burner for me: work I read a a few years ago by Laura Davis on reconciliation;  an abusive person in my extended family who's expressed interest in reconciliation through the family grapevine; Bruce Birchard's plenary speech at FGC Gathering this summer; a formerly close friend who has apologized multiple times for how messed up things are between us; someone in another part of my family who wishes for reconciliation between people who are in conflict; an abusive former family member who is stalking me.

Peterson wrote:
It is most effective if the offender communicates regret over their actions, can articulate what they have done, and actually requests forgiveness. My forgiveness does not mean I can (or should) trust the person again immediately or ever. Forgiveness does not give me permission to overlook reality.
Peterson also mentions the concept of restorative justice.

A real apology is not a "get out of hot water free/make someone be no longer angry at me" card.  It's an interactive process.  It has costs.

This is where forgiveness, reconciliation, and restorative justice can come together.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are related, but are not the same thing.  And they do not always take place together -- one may happen without the other.  
Immediate forgiveness and absolution distracts from the necessary cathartic process for both the offender and those harmed... While many of us rejoice in happy endings and prefer to skip over the conflict to the resolution, usually its the complicated, messy process that results in a satisfying ending.

I am reminded of the original Twelve Steps of Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, the original being the ones with which I am most familiar.  

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (our addiction)—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics (addicts), and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

A "searching and fearless moral inventory" comes pretty early on in working the steps (step 4), with the support of a Higher (or Deeper) Power and, preferably, also of one's sponsor in step 5.  Then there are several steps after the moral inventory before the word "amends" even appears.  In addition, there's a full inward step concerning amends (step 8), before outward, direct amends can be considered (step 9).  What's more, in step 9, our main concerns are not only "direct amends," but avoiding harm -- to the people we had previously harmed, or to anyone else.  If making amends to them would harm them or others, we find different ways to make amends; we still make them.

There's no guarantee of forgiveness from the wronged person.  However, in working the steps honestly and with an open heart, there is a real possibility of self-forgiveness, and, if one is a theist, of forgiveness from a Higher/Deeper Power.  (It's a little more complicated than that if one is a non-theist, but something analogous is still possible.)

We don't work the steps so that other people will think better of us: we work them to save our lives. 

As Peterson says, "...peace does not come about by overlooking wrongs. It requires action" -- and that action may liberate the wrongdoer as well as the wronged.  The person a perpetrator may help might be themselves.

Peterson's article, and the Twelve Steps, show potential forgiveness, potential reconciliation, and restorative justice as messy, complicated, genuine processes.  Not superficial ones.  And both Peterson's article and the Twelve Steps show responsibility-taking and amends-making as necessary -- even if forgiveness and reconciliation are not forthcoming.

Peterson writes:
If a family member has abused others and then repents, it is complex and difficult work to bring that person back into family life and gatherings. Not impossible, but I believe we must not overlook history or the gravity of offenses committed.

In general in society now, there is less pressure for women and girls to reconcile with abusive former romantic partners -- former husbands, spouses, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, significant others -- and that's a good thing.  But that pressure does still exist.  When that pressure occurs, it's also now more likely to be seen as dangerous, and that's a good thing.

However, there is still tremendous pressure for adults, teens, and children to reconcile with other (non-romantic partner) family members who have been violent and abusive towards them.

And when someone is pressured to reconcile with an abusive other family member, it is less likely to be perceived as dangerous.  This is a problem.

Other abusive family members, current or former, are just as dangerous as abusive romantic partners and abusive former romantic partners.  When other people fail to see the danger, the danger increases

We seem to be able to see an abusive, violent former husband/significant other as dangerous.  We seem to have a harder time seeing other family members as dangerous.  But someone is no less dangerous for having been any other kind of relative -- someone's parent, uncle/aunt, sibling, cousin, in-law, grandparent, etc.  We need to be able to see that, too.  Our failure to recognize this increases the danger level. 

We need to support survivors in keeping themselves safe.  We need to honor their boundaries.  We also need to help keep other people in our families and families-of-choice safe from known abusers. 

Peterson Toscano, Laura Davis, Bruce Birchard, John Calvi, and Friends Peace Teams (in Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities) all talk about circumstances under which reconciliation is possible, even when the most unthinkable violence has been perpetrated.

It does not happen through forced forgiveness.  It does not happen through forced reconciliation.  It does not happen through pressuring the people involved because it makes the rest of us so uncomfortable to see division among us -- whether within a family, or within a spiritual or religious group, or a political group, a minority group, etc.  Quakers, families, LBGTQ rights groups, anti-racist groups, Pagans, it does not matter.    

Most of all, reconciliation does not happen by blaming the people who are honest about violence perpetrated on them, or by pressuring them to accept further violence to their boundaries by forced "forgiving and forgetting." 

Survivors are in no way required to forgive or reconcile. 

Reconciliation may happen when people who perpetrate violence and abuse are able to take responsibility for their actions.

But whether or not forgiveness or reconciliation are possible, it is still incumbent on those who perpetrate violence and abuse to take responsibility for what they have done. 

And that's really what so much of this comes down to.

Can you acknowledge what you've done?  Can you see what it's done to someone else?  Can you, if appropriate, make amends?

What can you do to bring about justice?  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Faith and Practice quote from Residential General Meeting

I attended my first Residential General Meeting for Scotland this weekend.  Our morning business session opened with this quote (23.46) from Britain Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice.  It spoke deeply to me and to my condition:

I have been greatly exercised for some time by the image we like to present of ourselves (albeit with beating of breasts) as a white, middle-class, well-educated group of heterosexual people, preferably in stable marriages with children that behave in socially acceptable ways. I do feel that this is a myth. The danger of such myths is that we exclude many potential Quakers who feel they cannot/do not live up to the image or who feel that such a group is not one with which they wish to be associated. Sadly, many of us within the Society who do not fit in feel marginalised and second-class.

Another effect is that many problems faced by a large proportion of people are seen as separate: people who are poor, facing oppression, living in poor housing, experiencing prejudice are the 'others'. This enables us to be very caring but distant (and sometimes patronising) and also makes it difficult to be conscious of prejudice behind some of the normally accepted assumptions of our society/Society, such as that people who are unemployed are a different group from those who have employment; that poor people are poor ... because they are not as bright or as able as the rest of us or because their limited homes did not give them the opportunities that a good Quaker home would have done; that children living in single-parent families are automatically deprived by that very fact.

Until we as a Religious Society begin to question our assumptions, until we look at the prejudices, often very deeply hidden, within our own Society, how are we going to be able to confront the inequalities within the wider society? We are very good at feeling bad about injustice, we put a lot of energy into sticking-plaster activity (which obviously has to be done), but we are not having any effect in challenging the causes of inequality and oppression. I do sometimes wonder if this is because we are not able to do this within and among ourselves.

Susan Rooke-Matthews, 1993

Monday, October 31, 2011

Samhain 2011

Who are you thinking of tonight?  Who are you remembering?  Who are your beloved dead whom you honor?  Who are your not-so-beloved dead you wish to let go?  Who are those who have gone before?  Who are the babies born this last year whom you welcome? 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A new National Coming Out Day conversation?

Two years ago, I posted this article about the National Coming Out Day conversation I'd had: 
"Not the National Coming Out Day conversation I expected"

What really blew my mind, in that on-line conversation two years ago, was how the person involved just plain didn't believe me, and kept insisting I was wrong about my experience -- the taxes I pay that they don't, my legal situation, etc.

How do you think the conversation might be different today, in 2011, instead of 2009?

What's changed over the last two years in allies' consciousness about the reality of daily life as a lesbian, bi woman, gay man, bi man, transgender woman, transgender man, genderqueer person, queer woman, queer man, queer person?

Allies, what's changed for you over the last two years? 

LGBTQ folks, what changes have you noticed in allies' support?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Recommended article: Selina Rifkin, Cauldron to Kitchen, "Pagan Kosher: Eating Local"

The second in Rifkin's Pagan Kosher series.  

Pagan Kosher: Eating Local

For Pagans, the place where we live provides for our shelter, and perhaps our spiritual needs. But when we connect with our local food-shed, we have far more opportunities to revel in our sense of place. We honor relationship, not just with the land but with those who grow the food. The sacred web of community is built from such connections..

And so much more.  Lots of food for thought (pardon the pun) in this one.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Email subscription bug

I believe I have tracked down and resolved the email subscription bug.  If you tried to subscribe before and had difficulty, try it now.  Thanks!

Friday, September 30, 2011

The 1 in 3 Campaign Deb from Advocates for Youth on Vimeo.

Did you know that 1 in 3 women in the US has had an abortion?

Think of nine of your female friends, especially if you're a woman.  How likely are you to know which three among them has had an abortion?  Perhaps not very, because of how we've stigmatized abortion in the US.

The 1 in 3 Campaign ( is working to counteract that stigmatization, bring women together, and ensure access to basic health care. 

"I had an abortion..."

The 1 in 3 campaign is a grassroots movement to start a new conversation about abortion — telling our stories, on our own terms. Together, we can end the stigma women face each and every day and assure access to basic health care. As we tell our stories and support our family and friends as they come forward with theirs, we begin build a culture of compassion, empathy, and support. No one should be made to feel ashamed or alone. It's time for us to come out in support of each other and in support of access to legal and safe abortion care in our communities.

Share the 1 in 3 Campaign videos — or your own story — with three other people. And click here to find out how you can bring the campaign to your campus or your community. 

It's time to start the conversation.

I think a lot of women who've grown up post-Roe v. Wade -- which is a great number of us in our reproductive years -- have forgotten the stories some of us grew up on of what it was like pre-Roe.  This is one of them, one which has stayed with the teller for more than 40 years, and is a potent reminder of why we need access to safe and legal abortion. 

Restricting access to safe, legal abortions doesn't stop abortions; it just increases abortions like this one, which involved ingesting turpentine: Deborah from Advocates for Youth on Vimeo.

Making abortion illegal does not make abortion go away.  It just makes it more dangerous. 

What's in season at my local farmers' market

I was thinking about one of the queries in my recent post about Fall Equinox, What local foods are coming into season now where I live?

And so I found myself taking notes as I walked around my local farmers' market on Saturday.

I do realize there's some difference between "what's available" and "what's in season." :)   Here's what was available:

  • raspberries, blueberries, strawberries
  • tomatoes (greenhouse-grown)
  • damson plums
  • cucumbers
  • neeps (turnips)
  • greens (including curly purple kale!)
  • beetroot (beets)
  • apples
  • pears
  • pumpkins and other squash
  • other root vegetables
  • leeks
  • potatoes

  • chicken, duck, turkey
  • beef, including local beef burgers hot off the grill
  • buffalo
  • pork, including local barbecue sandwiches
  • fish (salmon smoked and fresh, haddock, cod, and more) (including smoked salmon sandwiches)
  • eggs
  • cheeses
  • soup
  • baked goods
  • hot oatmeal, ready-to-eat; oatmeal bars, oats, oatmeal, oatmeal ready-mix
  • chocolate
  • chocolate gelato (!)
  • flowers
  • potted herbs
  • bread
  • jams and chutneys
  • soaps
  • hummus 
  • other spreads
  • border tablet (think butter and brown sugar, the consistency of solid fudge you get down the ocean (MD), down the shore (NJ), or in St. Ignace (MI)

I'm realizing that when I think "in season," I think mostly about produce, because that's the rhythm I'm most familiar with -- from vegetable gardening as a kid in the Mid-Atlantic, from farms and orchards in Michigan when I lived there, from family friends with farms when I was growing up and farm stands most of my life.

I have some head-knowledge about that rhythm when it comes to meat, but I don't have it in my body the same way I do with fruits and veg.  I know a little about the rhythm of salmon from our time in the Pacific NW of the US, a little about the rhythm of chicken from the farm where we used to buy chickens in NJ; I'm just starting to learn about fish here.

(And from my childhood, I'm still very confused when people eat crabs any time other than high summer.  Or when uncooked crabs are any color but blue.  *grin*)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall Equinox

We go down as She goes down
We follow Her underground
Hail to Inanna
Who dies to become whole

And deep calls to deep
Deep calls to deep
And deep calls to deep
Deep calls to deep

The veils drop by on our way
As we pass through the gates
With Inanna as our guide
We find truth in deepest night

And deep calls to deep
Deep calls to deep
And deep calls to deep
Deep calls to deep

We go down as She goes down
We follow Her underground
Hail to Inanna
Who dies to become whole

And deep calls to deep (deep calls to deep)
Deep calls to deep (deep calls to deep)
And deep calls to deep (deep calls to deep)
Deep calls to deep

-- "Inanna," Suzanne Sterling; 
recorded on Reclaiming's "Second Chants"

Fall Equinox

Fall Equinox.  Mabon.  The second harvest and the Witches' Thanksgiving.  Inanna's descent.  Day and night in balance.  The beginning of the darker half of the year. 


Ground and center, or settle into worship.

Breathe, and ask yourself:
  • As I look around me, what changes have I noticed in nature since the beginning of August?  (Take a moment before going on the next query.)
  • What local foods are coming into season now where I live?  (Take a moment before going on the next query.)
  • As I take stock in my life right now, what do I find I am thankful for, in this moment?
A blessed Fall Equinox to you.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Looking for Pagan groups for participant observation project for Cherry Hill Seminary

    I am trying to help two colleagues of mine at Cherry Hill Seminary find Pagan groups for a project of theirs in their graduate-level Contemporary Global Paganisms class. 

    (Click here for description of course.) 

    They would, of course, be willing to put any group(s) in touch with the professor supervising the research. 

    They are looking for groups in western Arkansas/eastern Oklahoma and in Portland, Oregon.

    To meet the criteria for the project, they need groups that are specifically Pagan, and probably not eclectic (because the project needs to be with a group in a Pagan tradition not the researcher's own, and both are part of eclectic traditions). 

    If you have any leads, please feel free to leave me a comment or to send me an email at the address listed on my "About" page. 

    Thanks so much for your help!

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Recommended article: Respect - an antidote to violence

    I've written before about how the prevention of violence is rooted in recognizing and honoring the humanity in other people.  Lucy Duncan has a piece over at the American Friends Service Committee blog which very much resonates with my experience in peace witness and humanitarian work, the research I did as an undergrad, and further research in the field of both political violence and other forms of violence.

    Lucy Duncan, "Respect - an antidote to violence"

    Dr. Joy DeGruy did an extensive study a few years ago focused on the impact of experiences of respect or disrespect for which she developed the African American Male Youth Respect Scale...  She found that “the respect that African American youth feel promotes psychological wellness and social identity; conversely, a lack of respect compromises their identities and is viewed as a threat to safety” and that there was a strong correlation between experiences of being disrespected and later acts of violence.  Dr. DeGruy defines respect as ‘to regard twice, to give a second look.’

    Read more... 

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Recommended article: BBC News, A Point of View: Can Religion Tell Us More Than Science?

    BBC News, A Point of View: Can Religion Tell Us More Than Science? 
    Too many atheists miss the point of religion, it's about how we live and not what we believe, writes John Gray.

    I don't belong to any religion, but the idea that religion is a relic of primitive thinking strikes me as itself incredibly primitive.

    In most religions - polytheism, Hinduism and Buddhism, Daoism and Shinto, many strands of Judaism and some Christian and Muslim traditions - belief has never been particularly important. Practice - ritual, meditation, a way of life - is what counts. What practitioners believe is secondary, if it matters at all.

    The idea that religions are essentially creeds, lists of propositions that you have to accept, doesn't come from religion. It's an inheritance from Greek philosophy, which shaped much of western Christianity and led to practitioners trying to defend their way of life as an expression of what they believe.

    This is where Frazer and the new atheists today come in. When they attack religion they are assuming that religion is what this western tradition says it is - a body of beliefs that needs to be given a rational justification.

    ...Evangelical atheists who want to convert the world to unbelief are copying religion at its dogmatic worst. They think human life would be vastly improved if only everyone believed as they do, when a little history shows that trying to get everyone to believe the same thing is a recipe for unending conflict.

    We'd all be better off if we stopped believing in belief. Not everyone needs a religion. But if you do, you shouldn't be bothered about finding arguments for joining or practising one. Just go into the church, synagogue, mosque or temple and take it from there.

    What we believe doesn't in the end matter very much. What matters is how we live.

    Advices and Queries from Worship today

    At Central Edinburgh Meeting, where I now attend, at the end of Meeting for Worship, we have notices/announcements, a reading from Britain Yearly Meeting Advices and Queries, and then a few moments of worship before going downstairs for coffee/tea/fellowship and simple lunch. 

    Today's advice and query, #27, has particular resonance for our family, and I thought I would share it.  (Click here for a link to hear it read aloud.)

    Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak. When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness, asking for God's guidance and offering counsel to one another?


    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    Test post for subscription feeds

    As I wrote earlier, there have been some glitches with some of the subscription feeds since I updated the template.  Here's a test post to see if folks this post matches what folks are getting in their subscription feeds...

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    More on bedside and healing singing

    In a recent post, I had mentioned both Threshold Choirs and that there are other groups that do bedside singing and different kinds of healing music ministry and outreach.  Some of the ones I know are Unitarian Universalist groups, some are Quaker groups (such as Nightingales in Northern Yearly Meeting), and I'm sure there are plenty of others I don't know about yet.

    When I attended the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network Conference in 2009, I went to a number of wonderful workshops.  One of them was facilitated by Kellie Walker, of Valley Unitarian Univeralist Congregation in Chandler, AZ, about HeartSongs, a music ministry program which focuses on healing.  I left with inspiration to take back to my vocal ensemble at home and to Quaker Meeting for Worship for Healing. 

    My notes from that workshop are currently on a boat somewhere between the US and the UK, but earlier this week, new developments in Walker's program were spotlighted on the UUMN blog:

    Heart-to-HeartSongs: Music Ministry Thrives in Chandler, AZ

    There are all sorts of neat things that have come about in the last two years in this work.  

    For more information about the program and about the Voices Lifted Singers -- including recommendations for how to start your own group -- see:
    Heart-to-HeartSongs: Voices Lifted Music Ministry

    Enjoy reading, and do make sure to check out some of the videos from the Voices Lifted Singers.  They're wonderful. 

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Thinking again about inconsolable grief, and company along the way

    I have been thinking again about inconsolable grief.  About how some deaths make sense, some deaths we can eventually make sense out of, and some we don't necessarily ever make sense of.  We live with them as the edges wear to somewhat less sharpness.

    Beloved Wife and I are going through a death in our family that doesn't make sense.

    It has a narrative which either of us can tell you.  That narrative, in its own strange way, makes sense to me through the lens of my training, education, and experience.  I can explain any number of things to you about it.  But it doesn't make sense to my gut, nor, I think, to hers, or to anyone's in our family.  

    That's part of the difference between explanation and lived experience

    I'm reminded of how I feel tongue-tied when people want me to explain Paganism or Witchcraft or Quakerism to them in a way that makes these things make sense to them, that helps them understand them.  I can explain, but I can't give them the experience, and the experience is, after all, what is central in these experiential mystical traditions/religions/spiritualities.

    Or when people I work with one-on-one or in groups want me to explain trauma recovery, the process of grieving, the process of re-connecting with their sense of That-Which-Is-Sacred, or other kinds of healing.

    But in those situations, there's something different.  It's more personal.  And the person asking is usually also asking for hope: Tell me I can do thisTell me this is possible for me.

    (Yes.  Yes, it is.  No, you will not be alone.)  

    Life is like that.  The explanations, the words on paper or the screen, are reflections of the reality.  They can hint, but they can't convey the fullness, the reality, of experience.

    And as I wrote earlier, these aren't things we can fix for each other, or do for each other.  But these are things we can accompany each other during.  And that's important.  

    My gut refuses any sense of this death, at the same time my brain can't help seeing the patterns that are there, and the vast gaps where there are none.

    And so here I am, again, faced with an inconsolable grief, one that is both my own and where I have care for others affected by it. 

    I've written about inconsolable grief before, about what's helpful and what's not.  (I also very much appreciated the gentle and loving conversation in the comments on that piece from people about what they'd found helpful, and not helpful, and why, in their own grief.) 

    I very much appreciate your holding us, and our family, in the Light, or doing whatever your own personal practice is when you hold someone in your spiritual care.  I appreciate your being gentle with me while I'm still in shock.  I appreciate your not trying to fix the unfixable, and most of all, just being with, being present, being company during the process.

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Northern Spirit Radio's Song of the Soul: Singing the Goddess

    At FGC Gathering this summer, Mark Helpsmeet of Northern Spirit Radio interviewed me for the program Song of the Soul.  Three members of my Gathering workshop, Singing the Goddess -- Denise Madland, Peggy Bright, and Sandy Moon -- joined me.

    Northern Spirit Radio

    Click here for more information and to listen to the interview:

    Singing the Goddess: Stasa Morgan-Appel 

    The whole interview, including singing, is about an hour. 

    Songs we performed:

    • This interview took place on Friday afternoon.  I had horrible voice strain by the end of the week, and you can definitely hear that, both in my speaking voice and in my singing voice.  
    • We had no rehearsal time, and we'd sung each song together once or twice during the course of the week.  I'm really grateful to Denise, Peggy, and Sandy for their courage and willingness to sing with me under these circumstances!  
    A Pagan or NeoPagan is someone who self-identifies as a Pagan, and whose spiritual or religious practice or belief fits into one or more of the following categories:
    • Honoring, revering, or worshipping a Deity or Deities found in pre-Christian, classical, aboriginal, or tribal mythology; and/or
    • Practicing religion or spirituality based upon shamanism, shamanic, or magickal practices; and/or
    • Creating new religion based on past Pagan religions and/or futuristic views of society, community, and/or ecology;
    • Focusing religious or spiritual attention primarily on the Divine Feminine; and/or
    • Practicing religion that focuses on earth based spirituality.

    Links to a lot of the different things we talked about (and some links I failed to mention, but add now): 

    Some of my favorite songbooks (more to be added!):

    Friends General Conference ("FGC is more than Gathering!"):

    FGC Gathering:

    Winter Solstice Celebrations and A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual book and CD:

    The Pagan Pride Project:

    Threshold Choirs:

    Melanie DeMore:

    Betsy Rose:

    Pagan festivals, get-togethers, gatherings, etc.  Please note that I do not endorse any of these, or have experience with any of these, except for local Pagan Pride Day celebrations, unless noted with an asterisk. 
    • Our Lady of the Earth and Sky (OLOTEAS)*, a non-denominational Pagan church in the Puget Sound area of Washington:

      Cherry Hill Seminary:

      Unitarian Universalist Musicans Network (UUMN):

      Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS):

      Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA):

      Quaker Pagan and Pagan Quaker resources:

      Quakers!!  Where?  

      I hope you enjoy!

       p.s.  Blogger allows only a certain amount of room for labels, and so I was unable to include labels for all the orgs I provided links for. 

      Thursday, September 1, 2011

      Updating my blog

      I am updating my blog's template, etc.  Please be patient while it's under construction.  Thanks!

      Monday, August 29, 2011

      Recommended radio piece: BBC's "Twenty Minutes: Quakers Don't Sing"

      BBC Radio's Twenty Minutes: Quakers Don't Sing

      This was announced at the rise of Meeting for Worship yesterday, and we made sure to listen when it was broadcast last night.  Some F/friends in the States also heard it and passed the link on to the Quaker Pagans email list.  It's both fun and deeply moving. 

      Many creative people have found a spiritual home amongst the Quaker movement in our noisy modern world but one thing seems to be missing from this most peaceful of all gatherings - music. Dame Judi Dench, novelist Margaret Elphinstone and the composer Sally Beamish contribute to a montage of thoughts, akin to a Quaker meeting discussion, and reveal their own relationships with silence and music.

      The Quaker part starts at about time mark 3:30.  Enjoy! 

      (The broadcast is available on-line through 8:30 PM British Summer Time on 4 September.)

      Friday, August 26, 2011

      Recommended article: Selina Rifkin's "Cauldron to Kitchen: Pagan Kosher"

      This is the first in a series where Rifkin explores the idea of "Pagan 'kosher'."  I've followed the beginnings of this exploration in other communications with Rifkin, and I'm looking forward to seeing how her ideas develop further of how we, as Pagans, can approach being in right relation with our food, with what we choose to eat, and with what food options are available to us given our life circumstances and where we live.  I have a feeling Friends might also find this an interesting and useful avenue of inquiry as well. 

      Rifkin writes:

      But why should it matter? Are not all acts of love and pleasure Her rituals? Certainly eating chocolate can approach the experience of ecxtasy. But what if that chocolate was harvested with child labor? And how good can we feel about an industry built on a foundation of slave labor? The sugar trade spawned the African Slave trade, and never mind what it does to our health. But this is just one example. The food we eat should not just feed our hunger, our desire. It should feed our bodies and minds. It can connect us with our ancestors and our descendants. It can connect us to our local environment. Every time we eat, it is a chance to affirm our ethical choices, and create alignment with our communities. Food is powerful.

      Read more at Cauldron to Kitchen: Pagan Kosher

      Wednesday, August 24, 2011

      Recommended reading: Feminist Hulk and J's interviews at Ms. Magazine Blog

      Here are links to the three interviews -- two with Feminist Hulk and zir "literary life partner," J, one with J alone -- at Ms. Magazine Blog.  I found that while reading these, I laughed uproariously, nodded, winced, and felt often like I'd found two like-minded souls.




      Who's Behind the Mask of Feminist Hulk?  Only the Ms. Blog Knows!

      Feminist Hulk make Stasa happy

      You can take that any way you want; but what I'm talking about is, I love this quote:

      It’s important to remember that Republican doesn’t have to equal conservative. Palin is an embarrassment for the many intelligent and dedicated Republicans who are tired of their party’s dependence on the far right. In a year when so much of the GOP’s agenda has appealed to conservatives by stomping on women (whether by trying to defund Planned Parenthood’s ability to offer pap smears–in a redundant effort to limit federal abortion support–or by trying to redefine rape), I think there is no greater sign of this problem than the laughable notion that Palin is the best female candidate they could come up with.

      This quote is from Feminist Hulk's "literary life partner," J. (Jessica Lawson).

      Why do I love it?

      It's nuanced.

      I've been following Feminist Hulk for a while, and I just finished reading all three of zir interviews with Ms. Magazine Blog.  Feminist Hulk is a fierce feminist, as fierce as I am.  This makes me happy.  And just as Hulk smash gender binary, Hulk smash us/them binary that divides women from each other and people from other people who share values with each other.  This also makes me happy.  (Yes, labels like "Republican" and "Democrat" are at times irrelevant.)   

      It takes courage to cut across that either/or divide, whether it's in politics, religion, spirituality, culture, customs, etc. 

      At its heart, feminism is about seeing through those artificial either/or divides, back to both/and.

      At their heart, so are Quakerism and many forms of Paganism.

      Feminist Hulk rock.

      (And Feminist Hulk make Stasa happy.) 

      Monday, August 8, 2011

      On my way home from NPYM Annual Sessions last summer

      I recently found an old draft of this post and decided to share it.  - sm

      Where do I even start this story?

      It was last July (2010).  I was standing in the entryway to the airplane, watching my soon-to-be seatmate in the first class cabin put lotion on her hands, and I had a bad feeling about this.

      I was on my way back to NJ from Spokane, WA and North Pacific Yearly Meeting in Missoula, MT.  I’d accepted a voluntary bump that re-routed me through Portland on a twin-prop plane, instead of going through Salt Lake City on a commuter jet.

      Happily, coming into Portland, it was a calm evening, and the view of mountains and rivers was gorgeous.  (Gorges, for the Columbia River Gorge?)

      Powell’s Books in PDX was an unexpected respite and delight.  I’d been upgraded to first class for the second, red-eye part of my journey, an ambiguous delight.  (Paying for real, unsweetened oatmeal for breakfast at JFK the next morning with an airline voucher was deeply satisfying.)

      I was feeling ambiguous about being in first class.  I’d been thinking about class a lot lately, talking about it a fair bit, and been writing about it some.  And hoo boy, had I been feeling in touch with my working class roots and self.

      So that night, on one hand, I welcomed the extra space on a flight where I would really, really need to get some sleep; Beloved Wife was overseas on a research trip, and I was going to need to get myself to central NJ on public transit from JFK when my body thought it was 3 am and I was under the weather.  But I felt somehow like I was reinforcing the class system.  And I also felt somehow like I wasn’t presenting as “good enough” for first class.  Conversely, with our family's scruffy travel backpack, no makeup, my faded Guatemalan print pants and my hiking shirt, traveling first class on a mitzvah, I also felt like I was subverting the class system.  (And representing well, too...) 

      So I sat down next to my seatmate.  And oh, my, was that lotion strong.  I can’t even tell you what it smelled like, except it was very spicy somehow. 

      Because first class boards early, I had a lot of time to contemplate what to do.  Or not to do.  I had a lot of time to argue with myself that that lotion wasn’t actually making me sick.  It wasn’t giving me a migraine, so it was easy to argue that it wasn’t really making me nauseated – that was just how warm the airplane was.

      I’d already had a bad asthma attack this trip because of totally unexpected mold exposure; both the asthma attack and the meds to treat it had left me feeling pretty vulnerable.  The next day I’d had an ADA accessibility problem and a chemical exposure problem within the same ten-minute time frame, both of which also left me feeling tender and vulnerable.  I’d been wrestling with these kinds of issues for a good chunk of my trip, with Friends who love and respect me, and even with that love and support it was hard – so let me tell you exactly how much Ms. Scruffy Itinerant Minister Bumped Up to First Class felt like telling a total stranger her hand lotion was a problem.

      I got up to pull my cell phone out of my bag in the overhead and turn it off.  Standing in the aisle, I instantly felt much better.

      Shit, I thought.  I have to say something.  What do I say?  How do I ask this total stranger in first class to go wash her hands

      I sat back down.  Lotion.  My head pounded and my stomach rebelled.

      “Excuse me,” I finally said.  “I need your help with something…”

      And it worked.

      My seatmate was quite startled, but very responsive.  I kept it short and sweet and talked about it in terms of allergies.  She was sympathetic.  She’s from Europe and her husband’s from the US, and they have very different allergy problems when they visit family in different countries.  She obviously felt a little silly washing her hands, but then worried the fragrance in the soap would be a problem.  It was fine, and I was deeply grateful.

      She drank her wine and went to sleep.

      Eventually, I went to sleep, too.

      Saturday, June 18, 2011

      Spaces still available in workshop!

      Friends who are attending this summer's Friends General Conference Gathering -- I still have space available in the workshop I'm leading, "Singing the Goddess." 

      Here's the short description:

      From simple chants and rounds to more complicated songs; music that honors the Earth, the Goddess, nature, the seasons, silliness and each other. Come as you are, whether or not you think of yourself as a singer! No music-reading needed. Grounded in worship. Centering, joyful and fun. All genders welcome.

      Details and the long description -- including expectations and objectives for the week, specific areas/topics that I expect to cover, a rough description of the format, what participants should bring, and a brief bio -- are available at the FGC Gathering website; please click here:

      The workshop meets for five mornings at the Annual Gathering of Friends General Conference, from July 3rd through 9th in Grinnell, Iowa this summer.  To attend my workshop, you need to be registered for the Gathering (which is a rich and wonderful experience!). 

      Thursday, June 9, 2011

      Quote of the day...

      Quote of the day, from Ta-Nehisi Coates (emphasis mine):

      I think that when you are lucky enough to write in a prominent place, there's some sense that you must not just represent your own views, but those of your comrades in struggle...

      But the salient point, for me, is to always write first, and represent second. To do it in reverse, would result in a poorly written mush of liberal complaint which would, I assure you, represent no one well.

      Good food for thought... 

      Write first, represent second. 

      I know I often feel pressure to represent Pagan Friends somehow.  (As if I could.)

      Tuesday, May 31, 2011

      Guest post/s for Pagan Values Blogging Month?

      June 2011 is the third International Pagan Values Blogging Month

      I've participated in this project in the past, and have found it really interesting, as well as helpful in my own spiritual growth and my own ministry. 

      This year, I hope to write something again myself and to explore this topic further.  But I also find myself wondering:

      Are there folks -- Pagans, Pagan Quakers, or Quaker Pagans -- who are interested in writing about this, but who don't have blogs of your own?  

      Would you be interested in writing a guest post for this blog?  

      If so, let me know, and give me a way to get in touch with you, and we'll explore the possibility and hopefully work something out. 

      I think I'd love to have one or more guest posts on this topic this year, with viewpoints different from my own, and I'd like to explore that with anyone who's interested. 


      Wednesday, May 25, 2011

      Do you have to get divorced every time you move?

      Are you married?

      If so, when's the last time you had to get divorced and remarried just because you moved within the United States?

      If you're in an opposite-sex couple and you're married, chances are you got married, and no matter where in the US you've moved, you've stayed married.  It's probably never occurred to you to get divorced and remarried just because you were moving to another city or county in your state, or to another state.

      Sounds pretty silly, actually, right?

      But if you're in a same-sex couple, though, this might sound all too familiar to you:
      • If you live in a city or state that offers a legal domestic partnership or civil union, and you move, your current domestic partnership / civil union / etc. is not valid in the city or state where you're moving.
      • If by some chance the place where you're moving offers domestic partnership, civil union, or civil marriage, in order to register a new one there, you have to dissolve your current domestic partnership or civil union first.
      • In certain jurisdictions, it won't be enough to file the new paperwork; you will have to have another wedding ceremony in order for your domestic partnership / civil union / civil marriage to be legally binding.  Going to City Hall and/or appearing before a judge, justice of the peace, the mayor, and signing paperwork will not be enough; you will have to make a separate trip where you have another wedding.  
      No!  I'm really not kidding!

      In essence, same-sex couples have to get divorced and remarried every time we move.

      (It's possible there are exceptions to this.  I don't know of any.  Some states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions, but none I know of recognize domestic partnerships or civil unions from other jurisdictions; and many domestic partnership laws and civil union laws are written to be invalid in any other state.)

      Let me repeat that:

      In essence, same-sex couples have to get divorced and remarried every time we move.

      If you're a straight ally to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, does this idea come as a complete surprise to you?  A lot of people I've been talking to lately have been truly shocked to hear this.

      And that has surprised me.

      A true story of a real couple

      Jane and Amy meet, fall in love, the whole nine yards.  They move in together.  They are led to marry.  They have a wonderful wedding in their Quaker meeting / Coven / Grove / backyard / church / synagogue / religious community, with lots of friends and family present.  

      As part of their discernment process around marriage, they research how best to protect themselves, each other, and their family legally.

      Their city has a domestic partnership law.  But it turns out it doesn't offer them any protection at all -- since neither of them is a City employee, it's just a piece of paper with the mayor's signature, saying they're domestic partners.  It won't let them visit each other in the hospital or make medical decisions for each other, for example, or give each other rights of survivorship if one should die.  Jane and Amy also realize that they feel a strong religious leading not to register a domestic partnership or civil union, because it's unequal treatment under the law; they feel led to wait for civil marriage.  So they don't register.

      With an elder from their religious community, they do go to City Hall to apply for a marriage license, knowing they'll be turned down, to make a point.  City Hall clerks refuse to issue them even an application, on the grounds that they're a same-sex couple and therefore can't receive a marriage license.  

      Jane and Amy do the next-best things to protect themselves and their family legally. They make their wills, their advance directives (living wills), and their health care and financial powers of attorney.  They have them witnessed and notarized.  They make sure there are copies with their doctors, their multiple cascading attorneys-in-fact, a number of friends and family members, and the office of their Quaker Meeting / church / synagogue / Coven / religious community.

      Potential divorce #1

      A couple of years go by.  Jane changes careers.  Jane and Amy move to City B, State B so that Jane can go to graduate school in her field in another state.  Amy no longer has insurance through her job, but she can get on Jane's insurance -- if they're registered as domestic partners in their new city.  Potential divorce #1.  In order to register as domestic partners in City B, they have to dissolve any pre-existing domestic partnerships -- even between the two of them -- in any other jurisdictions.  If they had registered as domestic partners in City A, they would now have to dissolve that domestic partnership in order to become domestic partners in City B.

      Oh, and while they're at it, they should see a lawyer about the different laws in State B, and re-do their wills, their advance directives, and their health care and financial powers of attorney, then re-distribute the copies of the new ones.

      Potential divorce #2; actual divorce #1 

      Amy and Jane register as domestic partners in City B.  While they're living there, a statewide ballot initiative comes before the voters in State B to amend the state constitution to make all domestic partnership laws and domestic partner benefits illegal.  Potential divorce #2. 

      It passes.  Actual divorce #1.  

      Thanks to the work of Jane's employer, and that of many other employers across the state, Amy and many other same-sex partners still have health insurance -- and so do many of those couples' kids, since the ballot initiative also threatened to nullify many second-parent adoptions.

      Jane finishes graduate school, and, like many early-career academics, lands a series of post-doctoral teaching and research jobs -- in different states.   

      Potential divorce #3 

      Jane and Amy move to City C, State C together.  State C has a reasonably strong domestic partnership law.  They don't need to register for Amy to have access to Jane's benefits as Jane's partner, they're going to be there a short time, and State C has a good history of hospitals, for example, honoring powers of attorney.  They don't have a leading to register or any practical reasons to do so.  They don't register.

      However, if they had registered, and if the voters of State B hadn't dissolved it for them already, they would have had to dissolve their domestic partnership from City B first.  Potential divorce #3. 

      They should also re-do their wills, their advance directives, and their health care and financial powers of attorney for State C, then re-distribute the copies of the new ones again.  

      Potential divorces #4 and #5

      Jane's job ends, and Jane and Amy move to City D, State D for her next job.

      They should re-do their wills, their advance directives, and their health care and financial powers of attorney for State D, then re-distribute the copies of the new ones again.

      State D has a civil union law that is court-mandated to offer all the benefits and obligations of marriage ("everything but marriage").  Amy and Jane are dubious.  It's still not marriage.  They've also heard stories of hospitals and employers refusing to recognize civil unions because they're not marriages. 

      They check out the law.  It's pretty robust; in fact, it's identical to opposite-gender marriage in their state, with two exceptions -- it's called "civil union" instead of "marriage," and it's not recognized federally or by other states.  They look at the application and application process.  It's identical for all couples, regardless of the genders of the people involved. 

      In spite of the limitations, they have some good practical reasons to do it.  They also begin to get the inkling of a leading to do it.  Hmmmm.

      In order to register a civil union in State D (have you guessed it yet?), neither of them can be in a domestic partnership, civil union, or marriage with anyone (including each other) in any other jurisdiction.  Had the voters of State B not dissolved Amy and Jane's City B domestic partnership for them, Amy and Jane would have to do that now.  Potential divorce #4. 

      If Amy and Jane had registered a legal/civil domestic partnership in State C, they would have to dissolve that now.   Potential divorce #5. 

      But wait, there's more!

      In order for their civil union to be legally binding, Jane and Amy have to have another ceremony.  They literally have to have another wedding.

      Because one wasn't enough.

      They complain, but they do it. 

      Potential divorce #6  

      Jane and Amy are about to celebrate their seventh wedding anniversary.  (Of their first, religious wedding, the one with lots of people and joy and love and community.)

      Jane also has a permanent job!  There is much rejoicing.

      However, for Jane's new job, Amy and Jane have to move again.

      Jane and Amy are in a civil union in the state they're living in now...

      What do you think, dear readers?  Will they need to get divorced and remarried; will this be actual divorce number two?  Or by some chance and intersection of laws, since their civil union is nearly identical to marriage, will their civil union transfer? 

      Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

      Keeping track of it all

      I know people who keep a spreadsheet of their various domestic partnerships, civil unions, civil marriages, religious marriage if applicable, and the associated dates. 

      And what about benefits that are dependent on the date a couple gets married?

      No, this isn't equality.  No, this isn't justice.  No, this isn't full faith and credit, either. 

      What would solve this

      Marriage equality would solve this.

      Legal, civil marriage for couples regardless of gender, recognized on the federal level, recognized in all states. 



          Thursday, May 19, 2011

          FLGBTQC travel assistance request deadline for FGC Gathering is May 20th

          The deadline to request travel assistance from FLGBTQC (Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns) for the 2011 FGC Gathering is May 20th.  

          Clerks are requesting help in getting the word out, since the newsletter will not be out before the deadline.

          If you need the contact information, please let me know.

          Friday, May 6, 2011

          The really fast version of Introduction to Feminist Theory?

          From a conversation in another on-line venue.  Thoughts?  

          So, here's a question: 

          I came to my understanding of dominant culture/minority oppression, connected oppressions, and power systems in society through learning feminist analysis. 

          I know other people have come to similar understandings through other avenues, as well. 

          Is there a quick way to communicate basic, essential information about power dynamics and oppression to people who don't have this understanding and who therefore think ALL of it is about equally-valid individual diversity, and not about power differentials? 

          How can I help people see the institutional power-over, dominant culture/minority oppression issues, more clearly, without taking them through Feminist Theory 101?


          Pagan Coming Out and Pagan Pride

          So, May 2nd is Pagan Coming Out Day.

          I know very little about the International Pagan Coming Out Day organization (, so I don't really know how I feel about yet another Pagan holiday / movement borrowing words from / being named from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer movement.

          I am familiar, though, with the International Pagan Pride Project (, which is an excellent organization, and which openly and gratefully acknowledges its debt to the work of the Gay Pride Movement and to all the lesbians, gay men, bisexual women and men, queer women and men, and transgender women and men who have gone before, paved the way, and provided inspiration for the Pagan Pride Movement. 

          Why are Pagan Pride and coming out important?

          They're important for the same reasons as for LGBTQ people, and as they are for the members of any minority group. 

          Visibility.  Survival.  Combating discrimination and prejudice.  Building community.  Building bridges.  Education -- sharing the truth with ourselves / each other and with people outside our community.  Equality.  Integrity.  Celebration and joy.  Honoring our fabulousness. 

          Yes, honoring our fabulousness.  Honoring and celebrating each other. 

          Acknowledging and honoring those who have died due to prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination, and working to end them. 

          Celebrating those of us who are alive, those who have gone before, those of us who work every day to make equality truth and not just words on paper, those of us who live every day in the world walking through our lives as Pagans, in the bright variety of Paganisms that exist all over the world.

          Thou art Goddess. 
          Thou art God. 
          Thou art Divine. 
          Thou art Sacred. 

          Thou art Fabulous. 

          Blessed be.

          Thursday, May 5, 2011

          Recommended article: Tape Flags and First Thoughts: Red Cedar's Experiment with Fragrance-Free Seating

          Tape Flags and First Thoughts: Red Cedar's Experiment with Fragrance-Free Seating
          Su Penn
          My Quaker meeting is working on accessibility issues related to fragrances, which some people (like me) have sensitivities to and which can also trigger or exacerbate migraines and asthma. It's been a surprisingly vexed conversation over the last six to nine months, and there are a lot of tender feelings...

          Anyway, one thing we're experimenting with is designationg one-fourth of the meeting room as fragrance-free seating. This was a hard decision to make...

          Blogging Against Disablism: Why I'm tired, why I'm sick, why I feel embraced

          When I first read about Blogging Against Disablism/Ablism Day, I knew I wanted to write something for it.

          I finally had some time to sit down and write this week, and I spent a little while sitting quietly, not thinking about much, not writing, just being.

          Letting my mind go out of focus, then bringing it back to my experience… what really comes to the forefront is just how tired I am.

          Tuesday, May 3, 2011

          Recommended article: Blogging Against Disablism Day: The political and the deeply personal

          Recommended article: Blogging Against Disablism Day: The political and the deeply personal

          One Blogging Against Disablism Day, I was struggling to update the archive page. When overwhelmed, cognitive dysfunction can deny me access to very basic bits of information – I have forgotten my own name before, let alone my address or telephone number. At this point, I was having trouble listing the contributions in alphabetical order – something lots of people might struggle with when tired. In particular, I couldn't for the life of me work out whether M came before N or vice versa. So I asked my then husband which came first.

          A brief exchanged followed. It was impossible that I couldn't remember which came first - I wasn't that stupid. I said that honestly, I couldn't remember, and reached for the dictionary, which I should have done first. Asking might have been quicker, but I had obviously picked a bad moment. My husband got up and punched the back of my laptop screen, cracking the case. For a moment I thought the screen was going to die and I would lose my computer in the middle of BADD. That's why I know what the date was...


          Monday, April 25, 2011

          At tax time, my second-class citizenship rears up and smacks me in the face

          Tax time is interesting in our household.

          My wife and I are not married as far as the federal government is concerned.  Because we're a same-sex couple. 

          We're married as far as our religion is concerned.

          We're everything-but-married as far as the state we live in is concerned -- our state has a civil union law, court-mandated to be everything but marriage in name. 

          This has some fascinating tax implications.

          And they rear up and smack us in the face at tax-time.

          Additional federal tax burden

          If you have health insurance through your employer, and it includes coverage for family members, I urge you to take a quick look at your final paystub for 2010.  (Your most recent paystub will do, too.)

          On Beloved Wife's paystub, along the bottom, there's a nice little grid that lists current and year-to-date total gross income, federal taxable gross income, total taxes, total deductions, and net pay. 

          I'd like to draw your attention to total gross income and federal taxable gross income.   (Bear with me!) 

          • On the paystub you're holding, are there separate columns for "total gross income" and "federal taxable gross income"
          • If so, are your "total gross income" and your "federal taxable gross income" different numbers?  
          • If they are different, do you know why?
          • If they are different, by how much?  Is it a big difference? 

          For us, there's a sizable difference between "total gross income" and "federal taxable gross income" -- for 2010, about $4000.   $4000 we never see in her paycheck.


          Because we are not legally married in the eyes of the federal government.

          Therefore, the part of my health insurance premium covered by my wife's employer is considered federally taxable income.

          We have to pay additional taxes on my health insurance.  

          Taxes that opposite-sex married couples don't pay.  If we were an opposite-gender couple who'd done the exact same things we've done -- just like our next-door neighbors did, in fact -- had a religious wedding in another state with our friends, families, and religious/spiritual communities, and then had a civil wedding at the Boro Hall -- we would not pay taxes on that $4000 for health insurance.

          It's right there in black and white, every paycheck. 

          And it's really obvious at tax-time.

          Very different federal and state tax returns

          As I mentioned, Beloved Wife and I currently live in a state with an everything-but-marriage civil union law.  (And every time we move, we have to dissolve whatever we had where we were living before in order to have whatever the state we're moving to has -- but that's another blog post.)

          So we get to file a joint state tax form -- something we've never gotten to do before.

          Civil unions in this state confer all the same rights and responsibilities as marriage, but they are most definitely not marriage, they are not recognized as marriages by some hospitals, some employers, or any courts.

          But we do get to file jointly.  And we do get the same tax rate as civilly married couples.  That's nice.  And there's one box, marked "Married/civil union," which I also appreciate. 

          And unlike on the federal level, Beloved Wife's employer's contributions to my health insurance are not taxable income in NJ.  That's also nice. 

          Back to our collective paystubs and W-2s.  If you look at your own paystubs or W-2s, you'll find separate boxes for state wages and federal wages.

          • On your paystubs or W-2s, are your state wages and federal wages different numbers?  
          • If they are different numbers, how big is the difference?  Hundreds of dollars?  Thousands of dollars?  

          I'm used to mine being somewhat different, but not dramatically different. 

          Is this what you, personally, usually think about when you think about marriage equality?  Doing your taxes??

          How your taxes might be very different but for an accident of whom you can marry under civil law?

          Why does this matter? 

          Why does this matter?  When there are LGBTQ people who lack access to decent health care, who are homeless, who go hungry, who are unemployed, etc?  Why do I care about marriage equality, and why am I worried about my tax burden?

          Let me ask you this: When was the last time you were homeless or in danger of becoming homeless -- and why?

          Would $1200 have made a difference, even in the short term?

          This is an area where I have personal and professional experience.

          My professional experience is with homeless families as well as with local and regional agencies. 

          We know the causes of homelessness, folks.  They're not a big mystery.  And number one is poverty

          An extra $1200 in taxes (or $200, or $500) is, in fact, enough to put someone who's living paycheck to paycheck -- or who is unemployed, as a lot of us are right now -- or who has a chronic illness, or who is uninsured, or who is a single parent, out of their housing.

          $1200 can buy medication for someone with a chronic illness or acute medical need.  It can also be a major car repair, a week or more of child care, a lot of groceries.  

          But that's actually the wrong question. 

          The point is that paying more in taxes because of the gender of my partner is unequal treatment under the law.

          It's discrimination, plain and simple. 

          The point is that justice and equality are not limited -- as if there were a finite amount to be shared, like too little butter scraped over too much bread. 

          As if equality were a limited resource which we had to fight each other for, to make sure we each got some sliver of.  

          Oppressions are connected.  So are justice and equality connected.  And justice and equality feed on justice and equality.  We all win when we all win.

          The fight for equal treatment under the law encompasses access to basic services, food, shelter, health care, human dignity -- and, yes, marriage equality.

          There are people who think that when we've achieved marriage equality, we'll have achieved full civil and social equality.  I disagree.

          Marriage equality will not make lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, and transgender people fully equal under the law, or in the eyes of society.

          Marriage equality is one very important stepping stone along the way.  It's not the be-all and end-all -- it's not full equality -- but nonetheless, it's important.

          No longer paying taxes on my wife's employer's contribution to my health insurance premiums?  That's one place to start.