Friday, December 7, 2012

FAQs about FLGBTQC Mid-Winter Gathering

from the Frequently-Asked Questions page:

Are straight, cisgender people welcome at FLGBTQC Gatherings?
Yes! We are called "Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns" because we welcome all Friends (and Quaker-friendly folks) for whom LGBTQ issues are important. Our gatherings tend to be LGBTQ-oriented spaces, where many or most people speak from experience as LGBTQ folks, and the hetero- and cis-centeredness of much of the rest of the world is explicitly challenged. The straight allies who have been valued members of our community at various times have given a great gift in their willingness to engage lovingly and thoughtfully on LGBTQ issues.
Where can I find out more about how to be fragrance-free? What products are safe to use?
As a good starting resource, we recommend this website, written by an active participant in FLGBTQC. It includes information on why fragrance is an important access issue, as well as practical advice on how to go fragrance-free and what products to use.
I'm flying into Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport. What flight times should I be looking for?
Midwinter programming generally starts with dinner on Friday, and ends with lunch on Monday. So, factoring in distance from the airport and arriving early to check in, ideal flights would arrive between about noon and 4pm on Friday, and depart after 4pm on Monday. That being said, there tends to be a lot of variation in when people arrive and depart based on when they can get an affordable flight, so if you're flying via Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, we'll probably be doing later runs (until 10pm or so) on Friday and earlier runs (starting with the earliest morning flights) on Monday than the limited window of "ideal times."
I'm a teenager and I'd like to attend Midwinter without my parents. Can I do that?
Yup! You will need permission from your parent or legal guardian, and you'll also need to identify an adult who IS attending Midwinter who can sponsor you. If you don't know any adults who are coming, let us know. We may be able to work with you on finding a sponsor.
I'm a parent attending with kids of different ages. How will my family be accommodated in housing, etc?
We have a few different housing types available that will allow for a variety of configurations for families, including motel-style (two big beds, private bathroom), the "inn" (three twin beds, bathroom shared between two neighboring rooms), and bunk rooms. Let us know what you need, and we'll work with you to figure out a good arrangement for your family.
How do I donate to FLGBTQC to help make more scholarship money available for this, or other, gatherings?
You can donate to FLGBTQC through our website. General donations to FLGBTQC are used for travel assistance grants to people attending our gatherings, financial support for Midwinter, publishing our newsletter, and a few other small administrative costs. If you'd prefer to donate directly to increase financial aid for Midwinter 2013, you can include a donation with your registration fees, or use the "contact us" page to work out another method with us as needed.
How much financial aid is usually available? Can you cover my entire registration fee?
General affordability, paired with financial aid for those who can't pay the published registration fees, is a major commitment for us, though of course funds are not unlimited. It is unusual, but not unheard of, for us to cover an individual's entire registration cost. Please request what you feel you need to in order to realistically afford to attend Midwinter. We want you there, and we also want to give assistance to others!
Is assistance available to help with my travel costs?
Yes. FLGBTQC has specifically designated a separate fund to assist people with the cost of travel to and from our gatherings, including airfare, train or bus tickets, or a new chain for your bicycle (just kidding... maybe?). It is a separate process to request travel assistance than to request financial aid for registration costs. Submit your travel assistance request through the "contact us" form, where it will be forwarded to the co-clerks of FLGBTQC. Include information about your total transportation costs, what mode of travel you're using, specific amount that you are requesting from them, and contact information for you.
Do I need to make my travel arrangements before I register?
No, you can register before making travel arrangements. But make sure to let us know what your plans are are once you've made them, even if you don't need to arrange a shuttle with us!
Can I bring my baby?
Please do! Our youth programs welcome all kids under 18, and we'll be happy to work with you on how to accommodate food, naps, bedtime, and any other particular needs of your small child.
Can I come for a day or two, but not the whole weekend?
Yes, we welcome part-time attenders at Midwinter. However, we will not be providing airport shuttles on any days other than Friday and Monday, and on-site housing is available only as a package for the entire weekend. There are several hotels nearby where you can stay if you only want to overnight for a day or two-- contact us if you need help finding them!
What kind of housing is available?
Bryn Mawr Mountain Retreat offers motel-style rooms (two queen-sized beds in a room with attached bath), the "inn" (three single beds with bathrooms shared between two rooms), and large bunk rooms with shared bathrooms in the "lodge." In addition to these options, we welcome commuters staying with friends or in one of the nearby hotels.

Calling Friends (Quakers) and Fellow Spiritual Travelers of all descriptions who hold lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people close to your hearts!

from the Planning Committee:

Calling Friends (Quakers) and Fellow Spiritual Travelers of all descriptions who hold lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people close to your hearts!
You are enthusiastically invited to gather at the Bryn Mawr Mountain Retreat and Conference Center in the Poconos of Pennsylvania, February 15-18, 2013.
Together we will seek spiritual growth and renewal through unprogrammed worship, learning, fellowship, and play under the care of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC).
We will be blessed by the ministry of Friend Niyonu Spann, founder of Beyond Diversity 101 workshops.
For more information and to register, go to and click on Midwinter Gathering and/or contact us by email: or phone: 267-713-8694.
Please help us spread the word via word of mouth, email, newsletter, facebook, twitter.

Please see my next post for Frequently-Asked Questions (and answers!)

p.s.  I was in a workshop co-facilitated by Niyonu at FGC Gathering last summer, and I'm very much looking forward to experiencing her ministry at Mid-Winter Gathering!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How to use "A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual" for a Winter Solstice Celebration of your own

A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual book and compact discI've had a couple of conversations again recently where people seem to think the only way to use A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual is with a big group, a choir, etc., etc.

Definitely not, I promise! 

When my co-author and I put together the book and cd, one of the things we thought could be useful would be if groups of different sizes could use it to put on these Winter Solstice Celebrations.

We'd only worked with large-ish groups, with Celebrations open to the community, but what if individuals and solitaries, and isolated Covens, and small groups who weren't Covens and maybe didn't know each other well, and groups we hadn't even thought of yet, could use the book and cd to do this Winter Solstice Celebration?

From the feedback I've received, and from the experience I've had during the time I lived in different parts of the US and now in Scotland, it works as we'd hoped.

I've used (experienced!) A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual in a bunch of different ways:
  • with small and medium-sized vocal groups and volunteer narrators and readers, in Celebrations open to the community
  • with a group of drummers and the cd, narrating myself and with all of us sharing the reading
  • with 13 people who sight-sang it in an unheated gazebo and no artificial lights, passing reading around the circle
  • by myself in my living room in the dark
  • with four other adults and a preschooler in my living room during a snowstorm, with the cd, with one narrator and the rest of us sharing the readings
  •  in an open community Celebration, using the recording for some pieces, with one person leading group singing for the other pieces, about four people who'd learned songs ahead helping to anchor the singing, and one person anchoring drumming (everyone was invited to use other percussion as moved)

Who has done this?  Not an exhaustive list, but:
  • individuals
  • families
  • many Unitarian Universalist congregations, either with their own choirs or in partnership with community choirs
  • community choirs, especially feminist and LGBTQ choirs
  • Pagan community groups 
  • private covens
  • Christian churches
  • Quaker Meetings
  • YM/YWCAs
  • LGBTQ community centers
  • peace centers
  • community groups that aren't Pagan or religious at all, who have wanted to do some multi-faith community-building around/during the winter holidays, and/or have wanted to escape the commercialism of the season
  • music therapy groups
  • drumming groups

Okay, that sounds like fun!, you say.  How do I do it?  How do I use A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual for a Winter Solstice Celebration? 

Host an event on your own or with some family or friends. 
  • You can do it by yourself, using the book and cd.
  • You can do it with a small group of friends and/or family, using the cd for music, and asking people to narrate and do readings.
  • You can get together a group of friends to learn the songs, and do it at one of your homes, either for family and friends or just for yourselves, and ask people to narrate and do readings.

Partner with an organization.
  • Find out if a choir or chorus you know is interested in doing this as an alternative to a Christmas concert, as a community-building event, and/or as a fund-raiser.  (For example, a women's choir, LGBTQ choir, peace choir, or some other kind of community group you or somebody you know sings in.) 
  • Find out if your spiritual community or congregation is interested in doing this as a service, as an multi-faith community-building event, or as a fund-raiser.

If you're part of a Unitarian Universalist congregation:
  • ... and your congregation has a music program, talk to your music director or some of your musicians to see if they're interested in this as a service.  My co-author and I are members of the UU Musicians Network, and we can put you in touch with other UU folks who have done this. 
  • ... and you have a CUUPS group (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans), ask them if they're interested in doing this. 

Start your own singing group. 
  • You can do this with a group of friends, or cast a wider net in your community.  

For some examples, see the Past Locations pages:

Feel free to contact me directly for encouragement, advice, practical assistance, and spiritual support. You can also join our Facebook group

We have a Facebook group for anyone who's been part of A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual in any way -- Been to a Celebration or a workshop, participated as a singer, reader, congregation, behind-the-scenes organizer, etc. -- or is interested in hosting it.

There are lots of practical suggestions in the second half of the book.  If you need to order books and cds for your group, please contact the publisher:

For lots more information, see the main Winter Solstice page at my website:

But most of all, have fun!  Enjoy the music, sing along, take time for the silence, and appreciate both the gifts of the sacred Darkness and the rebirth of the Light.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Winter Solstice 2012

bread and roses spiritual nurture

The 2012
Winter Solstice Celebration
Celebrate the Darkness and the Light
with Songs and Stories

Saturday, 22nd December, 7:00-8:45 pm
doors open 6:45 pm

St. Mark's artSpace

Unitarians in Edinburgh

7 Castle Terrace, EH1 2DP
  • Songs, stories, candle-lighting, silent meditation, singing, and more  
  • Suitable for children and adults
  • Sliding-scale donation requested to cover the costs of hall hire and supplies; all are welcome
  • For disability accessibility reasons, please do not wear perfume/essential oils or other personal care products with fragrance

More information:

Facebook event page:

by Julie Forest Middleton & Stasa Morgan-Appel

For locations in other cities and countries, please see

Monday, November 19, 2012

International Humanitarian Law and the Rules of War

With the Israeli bombardment of Gaza right now, I have been seeing a lot of misinformation in social networking media and the news, and hearing a lot of misinformation in conversation, about humanitarian law and ethics in such situations.

Here are some resources.  It can be very helpful to familiarize yourself with some of these, especially the first two, rather than simply repeating what "everyone knows" about the ethics or legality of the current situation. 

War & Law: Conduct of Hostilities

International Humanitarian Law and Terrorism: Questions and Answers

The Rules of War: What Do We Really Know?

Red Cross Survey on the Rules of War
80% of Young Americans Believe More Education Is Needed on Rules of War

Exploring Humanitarian Law: A Guide for Teachers

War and International Humanitarian Law, International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent

Some additional resources, if you'd like to do something positive:

afghans for Afghans
a humanitarian project in partnership with the American Friends Service Committee (, and in the Red Cross Knitting Tradition (

Christian Peacemaker Teams
"Getting in the way of violence"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More about Patricia Monaghan's death, and memorial arrangements

Via Aline O'Brien / M. Macha NightMare:

At Michael's request, I post the following:

I am devastated by the loss of my beloved wife and partner in all things, Patricia. I am also filled with gratitude and love for all the wonderful things said about Patricia. She has left our lives and yet she will live long. There is a huge hollow in me and in the life and all the things that Patricia and I did and will do.

She traveled a journey with cancer these last 2 years. It was a journey of hope and disappointment. It was a journey that included her work, whether it was finishing the paperback version of Goddesses and Heroines, how to strengthen the Black Earth Institute, the decorating scheme for the Wisconsin house after we moved from Chicago, or how to control the temperature in the new root cellar. She was concerned that we had not yet put the dried beans from the garden. On Friday evening we were working on editing a manuscript until 11:30 at night. She died at home in my arms on Sunday morning at 3:45AM.

She didn't like to be called brave though she was. She didn't at all like being called a force of nature but she was. She didn't like it when people said, "How can you do so much?", but she "did" from morn 'till night. W would work hard all day on many things and then say, "Well at least we got a little but done."

Patricia was a scholar, artist, spiritual practitioner and leader and political activist. She was a gardener and literally a path creator. One of my favorite memories is of her pulling our large honey suckle bushes in the wet spring soil to create a path in our woods. This creation she carried into all things, whether leading us to the goddess, to a land ethic or to the struggle for a more just society.

There will be an informal get together at Brigit Rest this Saturday from 2PM to 7PM. More like a potluck where in addition to covered dishes bring memories or mementos of Patricia. (Bring the covered dish, deserts and libations as well.

A formal ceremony will be held on Saturday December 1 at Brigit Rest as well. There will be a service at the Madison meeting hall of the Society of Friends (Quakers) likely the same day.

Let us all honor Patricia for all the things she was and will be.

Michael McDermott

Monday, November 12, 2012

The death of Patricia (Pat) Monaghan

Many are mourning the death of Patricia (Pat) Monaghan.  Pat's death has been confirmed by Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, and by Pat's nephew Brandon. 

Selena writes: 

In Memoriam: Patricia Monaghan, February 15, 1946 - November 11, 2012. Goddess scholar, women's spirituality pioneer, poet, author, longtime friend & neighbor Patricia Monaghan died early this morning at home near Black Earth, Wisconsin with her husband Michael McDermott with her. Brigit guide her passage to the Otherworld. Brigit aid us in our mourning. Brigit Blessings.
Pat had been ill recently and was very quiet about it during her treatment.   
Pat was a deeply-appreciated and much-loved mentor and friend to a number of people, among them Pagans, Friends, those who are both, those who are involved with feminist spirituality, and those involved with eco-spirituality and social justice.  
We will miss you, Pat.

Resources from the singing workshop

I facilitated a Singing the Goddess workshop this weekend in Edinburgh.  Thank you to everyone who came and sang!  I had a really good time, and I hope other folks did, too.

Here are some resources to follow up:


Reclaiming Chantbooks -- both the original and an update. The original includes a number of pieces we did Saturday; the update includes "Children of the Earth Tribe" and lots of others.


Recordings of Reclaiming Chants -- again, includes a number of pieces we did Saturday (especially "Chants" and "Second Chants"):


A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual book and CD (also includes a number of pieces we did Saturday). The CD has teaching tracks as well as sheet music.


bread and roses spiritual nurture's Edinburgh Winter Solstice Celebration 2012. This is a presentation of A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual, with lots of singing (no singing's required, though), and people who were at Saturday's workshop will already be familiar with a number of the songs:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ways to Help in the Aftermath of the US Storm

How can you help in the wake of Sandy?  Give time, blood, and money.



The Red Cross will still have a LOT of work to do, mostly feeding people, including emergency workers and people cleaning up their houses, in the coming weeks.  Not to mention still providing shelter and food over the next few days. 

To donate either to where the need is greatest or to your local Chapter, click here:

To donate by text message: text REDCROSS to 90999. 

Text donation FAQs here:


Many, many blood drives were canceled due to weather, and the blood supply could get critically low very quickly.  Please consider giving blood as soon as you can:


So many ways.  But most of all, become a Red Cross volunteer.  The American Red Cross workforce is more than 90% volunteer.

Holding the East Coast and Midwest in the Light / in the Goddess during storm recovery.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

US and Canadian folks: would you like me to come visit you next February?

I'm hoping to make a trip to the US in February of 2013.

The Mid-Winter Gathering of FLGBTQC (Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns) is Presidents' Day Weekend, February 15-18 of 2013, in Honesdale, PA (the Poconos):  I hope to go.

I also hope to come early, stay late, or both, so I can do some visiting and also facilitate some workshops, do some one-on-one sessions, do some dancing, etc. 

So, I am putting this out now:

If you are interested in bringing me to your community -- spiritual or secular, Quaker, Pagan, Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, multi-faith, musical, or some other kind -- in February 2013, let's make plans now. 

You don't have to be on the East Coast; I'm particularly looking for a gig in the Berkeley, CA area, and really, I'm willing to travel anywhere. 

For workshops, I would need travel expenses within the US and Canada, and places to stay (mold-free and relatively dust-free).  I would also welcome stipends.  

I am interested in (and have experience) facilitating workshops on anything from and to:
  • Singing the Goddess: singing workshops, with music particularly from the Goddess/Earth/feminist spirituality movements
  • Theaological diversity and community building 
  • Explicit Friends: community-building among Friends who experience the Divine in particular ways (can be adapted to other communities)
  • Goddess spirituality and magic
  • Sacred handwork: handwork as ministry and handwork as magic (craft techniques such as crochet, knitting, beading, basket-making, tatting, macrame, and more -- you name it) 
  • Energy work and energy healing, as trained by John Calvi
  • For Pagan Quakers and Quaker Pagans
  • Winter Solstice Celebrations in your community based on A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual (I admit, this is not real popular in February) 
  • Meeting for Worship for Healing
  • Developing a workshop or retreat specifically for your community
  • more. 

No group is too small; I don't know yet if any group is too large.  In larger workshops, it's harder to do intimate work, but we do break into smaller groups; in really small workshops, it's harder to do work that requires a certain energy of activation or number of people.  

I also offer one-on-one sessions in spiritual mentoring and energy work.  And I'd be really happy for opportunities to teach Scottish country dance and call English country dance.  

For more information, please see these pages on my website: 

So, think about it, and get in touch if you know or think you might be interested.  


Friday, October 5, 2012

Updated information on FLGBTQC Mid-Winter Gathering

Updated information on Mid-Winter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns!  

As in the past, the Midwinter Gathering will be held over Presidents' Weekend - February 15-18, 2013.

LOCATION: The Gathering will be held at Bryn Mawr Mountain Conference Center. This is located in Honesdale, PA, which is in the Poconos. (Note: This is NOT in Philadelphia, and it's NOT in the town of Bryn Mawr with which you may be familiar because of a Quaker college of that name which is in that town.)  Here is the website for the conference center at Bryn Mawr Mountain:

TRANSPORTATION: The nearest airport to Bryn Mawr Mountain is the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport (AVP), located about 1 hour away. This is a smaller airport, but our research indicates that it is actually less expensive to fly to this airport from most major cities in the US. Other airport options include: Lehigh Valley/Allentown (ABE) - 2 hours away. Newark (EWR) - 2 1/2 hours away. Philadelphia (PHL) - over 3 hours away. We strongly encourage you to use the Scranton airport if possible!

We are working on a way to provide shared transportation from Philadelphia to the Gathering. It is likely that we will arrange a bus or vas, as we anticipate a large number of attendees from the Philadelphia area. If you are coming from the Philadelphia area, please be assured that we will have updates for you as soon as possible on how we can help you get to the Gathering!

REGISTRATION: The registration form will be available soon (thank you for your patience!), but we do now have the information about registration fees. The standard adult rate will be $260 (per adult, for the whole weekend, all meals included). Some of the rooms are "summer camp" style (3-6 bunk beds, shared bathroom); others are "dormitory" style (1 bunk bed, 1 single bed, bathrooms on the hall) -- all these rooms are $260 per adult. There are a few rooms available which are further separated from the rest of the campus and have private baths; these rooms will be $280 (per adult). The rate for teens (age 13-18) will be $100, and for children (3-12) will be $60 (per teen/child, full weekend, all meals included). Children 2 and under can attend for free.

If you have questions... please know that your question may be answered soon as we will have much more information available for you, hopefully within the next few weeks!

We're looking forward to a really awesome Gathering and hope to see you there! Please stay tuned for further updates!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Forming now -- Edinburgh Solstice Singers! Please share widely

Forming now! 

The Edinburgh Solstice Singers

to sing in the 
presented by bread and roses spiritual nurture
Saturday night, 22 December, 2012

  • We meet once a week for song-learning sessions / rehearsals, starting Monday, 8 October.
  • We are a non-audition ensemble.
  • You do not need to read music, although if you do, that can be helpful.
  • All genders and voice ranges are welcome.
  • Our music is written for sopranos and altos; we can make adjustments for tenors and basses.  (I am willing to work with tenors and basses if you are willing to work with my inexperience with those voice ranges.)
  • There are no dues, but there may be a charge to cover room hire for rehearsals.

I am aiming for Monday evening rehearsals.  If there is another night that works better for most people, I would be happy to change.

We have a few copies of the songbook available to borrow during sessions, but not to take home.  You may choose to purchase your own copy, which comes with a compact disc that includes recordings of all the songs and teaching tracks for songs with harmony parts.

A list of songs is available on the website; detailed information about the songs is available on a sub-page.

I am looking for rehearsal space.  So far, the least expensive I have been able to find is £12-16/hr.  If there are enough of us to make that feasible, I will book that; if we are a small group, we may meet in my family's living room.  If you have a lead on more affordable space, please let me know!

If you are curious about or interested in joining, please contact stasa dot website at gmail dot com.

Please forward this to friends who might be interested. 

More information at

Come sing with us!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Recommended article: "Open Letter to the Editors of The Cambridge Student"

This is so awesome, I just want to quote you the whole article.  Not realistic, alas.

"Open Letter to the Editors of The Cambridge Student"

If you think women and girls should take specific steps to avoid rape, please read this article. 

If you've ever sat or stood there wondering how to respond when someone tells you that you should take specific steps to avoid rape / what specific steps to take to avoid rape, you'll likely want to read this, too. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Singing the Goddess Workshop

bread & roses spiritual nurture

Reclaiming Scotia 

invite you 

Sing the Goddess

Saturday, 10 November, 2-5 pm
The Hall at St. John’s Church
Princes Street & Lothian Road, Edinburgh

Singing the Goddess workshop will include songs from simple chants and rounds to more complicated pieces, drawn mostly from the Earth spirituality movement and the feminist spirituality movement.

Come as you are, whether or not you think of yourself as a singer.  No music-reading needed.  All genders welcome.

For more information, contact Staśa. 

Free; donations requested to cover hall hire. 

Please share widely!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Edinburgh Solstice Singers, and Singing the Goddess in Edinburgh

October or November: Singing the Goddess -- give date input now

bread & roses spiritual nurture and Reclaiming Scotia are co-sponsoring a singing workshop which I am facilitating in October or November.

I would like to schedule it for when the
greatest number of people who are are interested can make it.  The proposed dates are Saturday afternoons in October or November, except for two dates where I have conflicts.

I need to make the booking for the hall by Monday at the latest.  So if you live within reach of Edinburgh for a Saturday and are interested, please let me know which dates will work for you, or are particularly good or bad for you.  


Workshop description draft:

bread & roses spiritual nurture and Reclaiming Scotia invite you to a 3-hour workshop with songs ranging from simple chants and rounds to more complicated pieces, drawn mostly from the Earth spirituality movement and the feminist spirituality movement.  Come as you are, whether or not you think of yourself as a singer!  No music-reading needed. All genders welcome.  [TIME, DATE, MORE INFO.]

Edinburgh Solstice Singers -- forming now

I am now forming the Edinburgh Solstice Singers, to sing in the December Winter Solstice Celebrations in Edinburgh.

We meet once a week for song-learning sessions / rehearsals.
  • We are a non-audition ensemble.
  • You do not need to read music, although if you do, that can be helpful.
  • All genders and voice ranges are welcome.
  • Our music is written for sopranos and altos; we can make adjustments for tenors and basses.  (I am willing to work with tenors and basses if you are willing to work with my inexperience with those voice ranges.)
  • There are no dues, but there may be a small charge for room hire for rehearsals.
We have a few copies of the songbook available to borrow during sessions, but not to take home.  You may choose to purchase your own copy, which comes with a compact disc that includes recordings of all the songs in performance, as well as teaching tracks for songs with harmony parts.

If you are curious about or interested in joining, please contact me.  More information at -- particularly the links for Edinburgh 2012 and Edinburgh Solstice Singers

Come sing with us! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Recommended article: "Access in the Academy: Accommodating faculty members with disabilities can help everyone," by Stephanie L. Kerschbaum

Access in the Academy:
Accommodating faculty members with disabilities can help everyone

By Stephanie L. Kerschbaum

I recommend this article to individuals, Meetings, Pagan organizations, UU churches, singing groups, and other groups, for a whole handful of reasons. 

As I read it, I found myself gleefully muttering, "Yes, yes, yes," over and over.  

The biggest reason I'm recommending it is that Kerschbaum offers ways of thinking about disability and access that are interesting, useful, and very likely different from how we/you are used to thinking about disability and accessibility.

There is so, so much good stuff in this article, it's hard to pull out even a fragment for you.  But I will lift up / pull out two things:

One is that I am reminded of how the fragrance-free policies in various groups and events ( benefit everyone there, not only people with chemical and fragrance sensitivities. 

Another is the issue of nametags, and how happy I am that Kerschbaum brings up nametags as an accessibility issue.

Nametags make events more accessible for me.  Plain and simple. 

Require name tags at department events and socials. Even if you know everyone in your department, there are often visitors at such events who may not. For some people, it can take many repeated encounters to remember another person’s name; for others, memory is visual rather than aural. In both cases, the name tag eases some of the social stress of the event. 

Yes, yes, yes.  

In the US, many (but definitely not all!) Quaker Meetings and organizations I've been part of have used nametags.  So have many dance groups; folk and Scottish dancers in the US, in fact, will often sport name tags whether they're provided or not.  In Pagan groups and organizations, this has varied widely. And so forth.

In Scotland in the last year, I have been to two, exactly two, Quaker events where there were supposed to be nametags... and they were missing from the first one (no one could find the box), and there were no provisions for substitute nametags.  This is seen as a cultural issue, not an access issue.

It places one more barrier for me to full participation in community.  

So far, when I've brought up that nametags are useful, not just for me with my particular disability, but for other people with other issues as well, I've been told variations on, "We don't do that here."  

I have hopes of addressing this more successfully in other Quaker groups I'm part of here.

Read the full article here

Friday, September 14, 2012

What it feels like to be full, spiritually

From the final FLGBTQC (Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns) worship at FGC Gathering this summer:

I am so tired physically.  And yet I do not feel depleted.  I feel full. 
It has been so long since I felt full in this way.  I think that often I am reaching because my spiritual reserves or reservoirs feel empty.  And yet as exhausted as I am I do not feel depleted; I feel abundant.  I feel filled.  
I'm thinking about how wonderful working with [a particular group of people in Edinburgh] has felt.  And yet after, I feel in myself that reaching, because doing that work with those lovely people feels like a scarcity.  A wonderful drink of cold, clear water, leaving me wanting more, to drink until I am not thirsty.  
My spiritual hunger has been fed this week.  
In so many ways.  
And it is wonderful.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Sex without consent is rape. We can stop it."

A new campaign designed to highlight vital changes in sexual offences legislation was launched in Edinburgh today.

With the tagline “We can stop it”, the campaign invites people, and in particular young men between 18 to 27 years old, to consider their own attitudes and behaviour and the role they can play in preventing rape. 

Some of the most important information the campaign provides are definitions of consent (and when consent cannot legally be assumed), and that victims can be of any gender.

For more information about the campaign, see:

We Can Stop It: 
Rape Crisis Scotland: 

Some facts that might (or might not) surprise you:
  • Nearly one in four women worldwide may experience sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime (WHO, 2002).
  • Most serious sexual assualts are carried out by a man known to the woman - 86% of victims said they knew the offender in some way (Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, 2010 – 2011).
  • A third of teenage girls in a relationship suffer an unwanted sexual act (NSPCC survey, 2009).
  • 40% of young people know girls whose boyfriends have coerced or pressurised them to have sex (EVAW, 2006).
  • Conservative estimates indicate alcohol is prevalent in 34% of reported rape cases, and drugs in 12% of cases (Finch and Munroe, 2006).
  • The victim is male in approximately 8% of all recorded rape cases however the actual number is thought to be higher (Stern Review, 2010).
  • The UK charity Mankind estimates 3 in 20 men are victims of sexual violence (Stern Review, 2010).

The We Can Stop It website includes:
  • Did You Know? -- information about rape and sexual assault
  • What Is the Law? -- information about the Sexual Offences Act (Scotland) 2009, including What Is Rape?, What Is Consent?, and What Is Sexual Assault?
  • What Can You Do?
  • Our Stories
  • News
  • Contacts

It's comprehensive and well-put-together.  I strongly recommend checking it out and passing it on.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Recommended article: Amanda Marcotte's "It's Really Time for the Harassment to End"

Amanda Marcotte's "It's Really Time for the Harassment to End" is just brilliant.

There is so much in here; I suggest the whole thing.  But I will start you out with this snippet:

Jen McCreight has hung up her marvelous blog Blag Hag, even though she loves writing, because of all the abuse she’s been getting due to the rest storm in the atheist blogosphere over whether or not women are required to give any man attention because he wants it. The feminists say no, and support policies at conventions that state clearly to men that women’s consent matters. If a woman declines to give you anything—sex, flirting, any kind of attention—that is her right, and exacting your revenge by harassing her is unacceptable. A loud minority of atheist dudes find this unacceptable, and refuse to budge from their belief that they are owed women’s attention. They claim “free speech” gives them a right to an audience with the woman of their choosing, and claim that the requirement that a woman consents to an interaction means the end of flirting and sex. They grind their teeth over and over at the nerve of Rebecca Watson saying that it’s not cool to corner an unwilling woman in an elevator; their “right” to have a woman’s attention if they want it means that they are allowed any tactic, no matter how scary, to extract that attention, even if it means approaching a woman when she literally has no immediate means of escape. Hitting on a woman in an enclosed space sends the signal that she is not allowed, in your opinion, to decline the interaction. The anti-feminists occasionally pull sad faces and say they’re sorry that it has to be this way, but a man’s right to “free speech”, i.e. to extract attention from any woman at any time, trumps a woman’s right to free association.

To say otherwise—to say that a woman has a right to decline to give you attention—is “misandry”. The response to women who state boldly that a woman’s consent is required for any interaction has been many variations of “I’ll give you something to cry about.” Richard Dawkins raising the subject of serious oppression of women in some Muslim countries. Translation: “You should be grateful that we’re only demanding forced flirting, because there’s a lot more hellish things we could force you to do.” Many, many rape threats thrown at female bloggers who speak out: “You think forced flirting is bad, but there’s worse things we could force on you.” The notion of abandoning force altogether is preposterous to these men. There will always be force, they seem to be saying. Extracting what you desire from women by force is just the way of the world. You should be grateful that we demand so little of you, in terms of non-consensual interactions. 


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Theaological diversity among Friends

In July, I co-led an interest group at FGC Gathering with John Hunter from NC.

Actually, it was two interest groups merged into one: "Theological Diversity Within Our Meetings," and "Every Quaker Has a Place in This Meeting."

The interest groups sub-committee had asked John and me if we would merge our proposed interest groups, since on the surface they seemed so similar.  John and I emailed with each other, spoke on the phone, and agreed; once at Gathering, we met, settled on how we'd facilitate the evening, and finalized our queries.  What we came up with was somewhat different than what either of us would have done on our own; I think it was an interesting compromise, and led to a richer experience for the folks who attended -- and certainly more so than if there had been two separate interest groups, because among other things, there was definitely a richer mix of Friends present than those who would have chosen to go to one of the interest groups over the other.

The two interest groups were:

Theological Diversity Within Our Meetings - A great Strength of Quakerism

We all "have a place in the choir" at our home meetings.  This is true even as we may hold different personal theological beliefs.  We will explore how unity in such diversity might be a great strength for Quakerism.  A presentation will be followed by small groups where we each may explore our own theological assumptions and how we are included in our meetings and in the wider body of Friends.

Every Quaker Has a Place in This Meeting
Three Friends walk into Meeting for Worship: a Christian, a Pagan, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Non-Theist.  Each gives vocal ministry from their own experience; all experience gathered worship.  Come create the rest of the story: coming together, supporting each other, building community, helping each other sing in our own unique voices, singing in harmony. 

(They do ask you, when you put in a proposal, to consider the Gathering theme...)

58 people attended -- the room was certainly full!

We opened with silent worship.  John and I introduced ourselves, talked about what we planned to do with our evening (hour and 45 minutes), asked those present to introduce themselves -- your name, where you're from and where you attend Meeting, if you do; one word describing how you feel right now; one word describing what drew you to this interest group. 

John and I each gave our presentations, and then we divided the room up into small groups, handing out slips of paper with guidelines for Claremont Dialogues (similar to worship-sharing, but with some differences) and with the queries/prompts for the dialogues. 

The small groups seemed energized, respectful, and enthusiastic.  I very much liked the feel of the energy among them.

The small groups didn't all "feel" the same to me -- many of them seemed to develop their own short-term sense of group identity.  Some were quieter in their listening; some more boisterous, as folks' answers sparked resonating or sympathetic laughter from others in the group; some intensely talkative.  At least one was quiet and intense during the dialogue rounds, finished early, and then took the rest of the time for what seemed to be deep and enthusiastic conversation. Each group really did seem to have its own little bubble of energy and space around it, as cramped as the room was. 

(I confess I was vastly entertained by the myriad ways timekeepers in each group chose to undertake their tasks: everything appeared from watches, to people watching the wall clock, to smartphone apps going "Ding!" every few minutes and prompting more laughter.) 

Towards the end, we brought the group back together for large-group discussion to talk about what we learned -- any surprises, etc? 

There was a marvelous sunset out the wide windows of the room we were in, which someone pointed out, and we took a moment to open all the shades and admire it. 

We ended with silent worship. 

A number of people stayed for more conversation; some left for other commitments; some stayed for a bit then headed out for other commitments.

I felt blessed.

* * * * *

Would you like me to facilitate a similar workshop in your Meeting, Coven, Church, Circle, or other spiritual group?  Contact me at stasa dot website at gmail dot com. 

* * * * *

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Recommended article: "Things I Wish White Pagans Realized"

"Things I Wish White Pagans Realized"

...far too often, the question of racism in paganism, along with all the other -isms that exist in society get brushed aside, silenced when mentioned, or are casually dismissed as being ‘not important to the circle and its workings’.  So, here’s my list of things I wish white Pagans realized when PoC (Pagans of Color) join the circle, (all of these are written in the first person singular, because these are things I WISH they realized, each PoC’s list will be different by a little or a lot, that is part of the joy of dealing with people NOT as a single voice for their ETHNICITY OR RACE, but as the INDIVIDUALS they ARE): (Read more...)

YES, yes, yes.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Also reposted at Daughters of Eve (in a font  I find easier to read):

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ritual outline for Meeting for Worship

There is an arc to the ritual in unprogrammed Quaker Meeting for Worship. 

It's plain to me.  And it's something I can't help seeing, with my background and training -- in my undergraduate and graduate studies; in my spiritual and religious work; as a Friend; as a Priestess & Witch.

I've written and talked about this in Meeting for Worship some before, including in "'Four Doors to Meeting for Worship' from a Quaker Witch's Perspective" ( 

But I've been thinking about it a lot again lately.  

* * * * *

Here's the ritual outline for how Meeting for Worship went in one of the Meetings where I was active for several years:

Outline for Meeting for Worship at [Blank] Friends Meeting: 
  • Gather
  • Meeting for Worship begins when first person starts to worship, usually a few minutes before 11:00 am
  • 11:10, doors close; latecomers are not admitted until children leave
  • There might or might not be vocal ministry
  • At 11:20, an appointed person signals that it's time for the children to leave; the children leave worship and latecomers enter worship
  • There might or might not be vocal ministry 
  • At 11:50, the appointed person stands and explains Joys and Sorrows
  • Joys and Sorrows
  • At app. 12:00, the appointed person shakes hands with the person next to them; shaking of hands continues
  • The appointed person stands, makes some routine/regular/repeated announcements about the Meeting; welcomes newcomers and visitors and asks them and those who have not been there for a while to stand and introduce themselves; makes additional announcements and passes out printed announcements; requests donations; other Friends may ask to make other announcements; eventually, appointed person declares we are done and invites everyone to social hour / coffee, tea, snacks
  • Room is cleaned up

That looks like a ritual outline to my experienced eye.  A pretty simple ritual outline, but a ritual outline. 

How does this look in other Meetings, or in general?

Well, as with all ritual, there are things we need to do ahead of time, and there's what happens during the event itself. 

Ahead of time:
  • Make sure the chairs and/or benches are set up the right way / the way we like them / the way approved by the appropriate committee (Worship and Ministry, Ministry and Counsel, Elders & Overseers, etc) -- whether in a circle, in rows, in squares
  • Put small tables between some of the chairs
  • Put the central table in place
  • Make sure the guest book is in its place, that it has a pen, and that the light is on over the guest book, etc.
  • Put books and literature on facing benches or central table, some on smaller tables: Faith and Practice, Advices and Queries, different versions of Hebrew and Christian scriptures, hymnals, printed announcements, the monthly newsletter, other announcements, etc.
  • Put bowls for contributions on central table or envelopes for contributions on facing benches or appropriate places
  • Put carafe of water and empty glasses on central table (or appropriate places)
  • Put flowers on central table (or appropriate places)
  • Turn on loop hearing system
  • Decide who closes Meeting
  • Decide who speaks at rise of Meeting
  • Decide who has care of Meeting (which member/s of Worship & Ministry or Ministry & Counsel, Elders & Overseers, etc., are expected to be present)
  • If there's a special collection, decide who will talk about it
  • If children are present for the first part of worship, decide who determines when it's time for them to leave
  • Decide who will clean up room; if it's a rented/hired space, who puts chairs back, etc.
  • Determine who is responsible for social hour -- coffee / tea / snacks / etc. -- providing these, serving these, cleaning up afterwards, etc.
  • Decide who closes the doors to latecomers and who opens them again

Some of these don't apply to every Quaker Meeting; there are other things I haven't listed here that could also be included. 

During Meeting for Worship: 
  • Gather
  • Greeters / doorkeepers greet people at the door(s), makes sure newcomers know where to go, especially newcomers with children
  • Meeting for Worship begins when first person starts to worship 
  • Those who have official roles take their places -- care of Meeting / Elders & Overseers / members of Worship & Ministry or Ministry & Counsel, person closing Meeting, person handling announcements, etc.
  • There might or might not be vocal ministry
  • Greeters / doorkeepers / appointed person(s) close doors to keep latecomers from entering
  • If children are present for the first part of worship, children leave after X minutes
  • Latecomers enter; if not when children leave, greeters / doorkeepers / appointed person(s) open doors at pre-arranged time for latecomers
  • There might or might not be vocal ministry
  • If children come into worship later, or leave and return, children enter worship after Y minutes
  • There might or might not be vocal ministry
  • If Joys and Sorrows, Joys and Sorrows
  • Shaking of hands by appointed person at appointed time
  • Appointed person welcomes everyone and speaks about the Meeting in general, including requesting donations; also asks visitors, newcomers, and those returning after absences to introduce themselves
  • In some Meetings, all present introduce themselves
  • The children may share what they did during First Day School / Children's Meeting
  • Appointed person makes announcements; there may be additional announcements from the floor
  • If there is a special collection, a different appointed person speaks about that organization and requests money
  • There may be a reading from Advices & Queries
  • There may be a brief resumption of silent worship
  • Appointed person "releases" the meeting
  • Room is cleaned up

Again, some of these don't apply to every Quaker Meeting, and there are other things I haven't listed here that could also be included.

So, yes, we have ritual.

One question is, are we honest about it?

* * * * *

Friends (Quakers) like to say we don't have ritual.

Before I ever started attending Meeting for Worship regularly, I had a fair amount of experience as a Priestess & Witch analyzing spiritual and religious ritual, as well as some experience and undergraduate training with cultural ritual, too.  And as I spent more time in unprogrammed Meeting for Worship, it became pretty obvious to me that Quakers have ritual, without calling it that.

September 11, 2001, further convinced me of this.  That week, my Meeting, like many others, hosted Meetings for Worship outside our regular Sunday, or First Day, worship.  Suddenly, just how much ritual was involved each week became clearer to me.

Because the usual people from the usual committee were not always available, other people, who were less practiced, had to set up for Meeting for Worship, had to "run" Meeting for Worship, had to end it, had to herd people out at the end, etc.

Because we have no clergy / we're all clergy, and because we believe we all know how to do this, no one made plans ahead of time for who was responsible for worship -- and those of us from the Meeting who showed up found it hard going when we arrived.  Where were the guest book and pen?  The bibles and hymnals and copies of Faith and Practice for the facing benches?  Should we have informational pamphlets available?  Which ones?  Where are they stored?  Since we had so many people from the community, should someone introduce and explain Meeting for Worship at the beginning?  Who would close Meeting?  Did anyone have "care of Meeting," the particular task of holding the Meeting for Worship in the Light and helping to center it?  Should someone speak at the end after the shaking of hands?  What would they say?  (What did the usual people say?  Where was the script they used -- ?)

We muddled through.  It was stressful.

It was illuminating.

A few years later, I gained further academic experience analyzing ritual in religious and spiritual contexts.  From a religious studies point of view, from a ritual studies point of view, yes, Quakers have ritual.

It's very simple ritual.  But it's there. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Recommended article: Judith Butler's ‘I affirm a Judaism that is not associated with state violence’

Judith Butler: ‘I affirm a Judaism that is not associated with state violence’

Strongly recommended.  A particularly good read if you are concerned that people who criticize Israel or endorse BDS (the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement against Israel and/or the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territories) are anti-Semitic (or, if Jewish, self-hating) or automatically support Hamas or Hezbollah.  

It is untrue, absurd, and pain­ful for any­one to argue that those who for­mu­late a cri­ti­cism of the State of Israel is anti- Semitic or, if Jew­ish, self- hating. Such charges seek to demon­ize the per­son who is artic­u­lat­ing a crit­ical point of view and so dis­qual­ify the view­point in advance. It is a silen­cing tac­tic: this per­son is unspeak­able, and whatever they speak is to be dis­missed in advance or twis­ted in such a way that it neg­ates the valid­ity of the act of speech. The charge refuses to con­sider the view, debate its valid­ity, con­sider its forms of evid­ence, and derive a sound con­clu­sion on the basis of listen­ing to reason. The charge is not only an attack on per­sons who hold views that some find objec­tion­able, but it is an attack on reas­on­able exchange, on the very pos­sib­il­ity of listen­ing and speak­ing in a con­text where one might actu­ally con­sider what another has to say. When one set of Jews labels another set of Jews “anti- Semitic”, they are try­ing to mono­pol­ize the right to speak in the name of the Jews. So the alleg­a­tion of anti- Semitism is actu­ally a cover for an intra- Jewish quarrel.
In the United States, I have been alarmed by the num­ber of Jews who, dis­mayed by Israeli polit­ics, includ­ing the occu­pa­tion, the prac­tices of indef­in­ite deten­tion, the bomb­ing of civil­ian pop­u­la­tions in Gaza, seek to dis­avow their Jew­ish­ness. They make the mis­take of think­ing that the State of Israel rep­res­ents Jew­ish­ness for our times, and that if one iden­ti­fies as a Jew, one sup­ports Israel and its actions. And yet, there have always been Jew­ish tra­di­tions that oppose state viol­ence, that affirm multi- cultural co- habitation, and defend prin­ciples of equal­ity, and this vital eth­ical tra­di­tion is for­got­ten or side­lined when any of us accept Israel as the basis of Jew­ish iden­ti­fic­a­tion or val­ues. 


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Balaam's ass kicked mine

At FGC Gathering this summer, when I was at the Meeting for Worship hosted by FLGBTQC one afternoon, a Jewish Friend gave vocal ministry about Balaam's ass.

Rather than share her re-telling -- which I honestly can't -- here is the version of the story of Balaam's ass told in the World English Bible: 

1 The children of Israel traveled, and encamped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho.

2 Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 Moab was very afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. 4 Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Now this multitude will lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field." Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. 5 He sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the River, to the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, "Behold, there is a people who came out from Egypt. Behold, they cover the surface of the earth, and they are staying opposite me. 6 Please come now therefore curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: perhaps I shall prevail, that we may strike them, and that I may drive them out of the land; for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed."

7 The elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came to Balaam, and spoke to him the words of Balak. 8 He said to them, "Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as Yahweh shall speak to me." The princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. 9 God came to Balaam, and said, "Who are these men with you?" 10 Balaam said to God, "Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, [saying], 11 'Behold, the people that is come out of Egypt, it covers the surface of the earth: now, come curse me them; perhaps I shall be able to fight against them, and shall drive them out.'" 12 God said to Balaam, "You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people; for they are blessed." 13 Balaam rose up in the morning, and said to the princes of Balak, "Go to your land; for Yahweh refuses to permit me to go with you." 14 The princes of Moab rose up, and they went to Balak, and said, "Balaam refuses to come with us."

15 Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honorable than they. 16 They came to Balaam, and said to him, "Thus says Balak the son of Zippor, 'Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me: 17 for I will promote you to very great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Please come therefore, and curse this people for me.'" 18 Balaam answered the servants of Balak, "If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I can't go beyond the word of Yahweh my God, to do less or more. 19 Now therefore, please wait also here this night, that I may know what Yahweh will speak to me more." 20 God came to Balaam at night, and said to him, "If the men have come to call you, rise up, go with them; but only the word which I speak to you, that you shall do."

21 Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab.

22 God's anger was kindled because he went; and the angel of Yahweh placed himself in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 The donkey saw the angel of Yahweh standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand; and the donkey turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the way. 24 Then the angel of Yahweh stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. 25 The donkey saw the angel of Yahweh, and she thrust herself to the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he struck her again. 26 The angel of Yahweh went further, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. 27 The donkey saw the angel of Yahweh, and she lay down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Yahweh opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" 29 Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have mocked me, I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would have killed you." 30 The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Was I ever in the habit of doing so to you?" He said, "No."

31 Then Yahweh opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of Yahweh standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand; and he bowed his head, and fell on his face. 32 The angel of Yahweh said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come forth as an adversary, because your way is perverse before me: 33 and the donkey saw me, and turned aside before me these three times. Unless she had turned aside from me, surely now I would have killed you, and saved her alive." 34 Balaam said to the angel of Yahweh, "I have sinned; for I didn't know that you stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases you, I will go back again." 35 The angel of Yahweh said to Balaam, "Go with the men; but only the word that I shall speak to you, that you shall speak." So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

This is not a new story to me.  I enjoyed hearing her retelling of it.

And then her ministry kicked me in the gut.  

One of the things she asked was:

In what ways am I letting self-interest -- riches, other people's opinions -- separate me from G-d, keep me from seeing the angel?

Balaam's ass kicked mine.  

As I sat in worship, I found myself asking:

  • In what ways is this happening in my own Quaker community?  Am I letting others' opinions about how to be a good Quaker come between me and the Goddess and how the Goddess informs my Quakerism?  Am I letting my desire for their good opinion mean more than my authentic connection with, relationship with, the Goddess?  Am I letting other people's opinions twist my basic Quakerism?  Am I letting other people's notions of Quakerism, and my desire for community, corporate discernment, and Quaker process, mean more than genuine Quakerism?  
  • Community vs. integrity is an artificial, no-win fight. 
  • Am I allowing my desire to be a faithful Friend, in terms of community, keep me from being a faithful Friend, in terms of integrity and the Goddess? 

Hard questions.  Good questions to be asking, though.

If I am letting the desire for other people's good opinions of me separate me from the Goddess, keep me from "seeing the angel," than I know I need to stop.  I need and want most to be a faithful Friend by being faithful to how She leads me.  I know from experience there lies joy. 

But one of the gifts of Quakerism, indeed of spiritual community, is the assistance of others in discerning the movement of the Spirit, of the Gods, in our lives, and of the direction that movement takes.

It can be very hard to recognize that the people with whom we are trying to be in spiritual community are not leading us to be in greater tune with That-Which-Is-Sacred, but asking us to compromise ourselves.

It can be very hard for me to recognize that the people with whom I am trying to be in spiritual community are not leading me to be in greater tune with, faithful to, That-Which-Is-Sacred, but asking me to compromise myself. 

I am reminded of two things:

  • When the Meeting where I became a member didn't ask, "What will the neighbors think?," but rather, "How are we led?," and, "How can we help you be faithful?
I suspect there will be more with Balaam's ass in the future.

p.s.  Doesn't "Balaam's ass" get her own name?  She's designated as female in every version of this story I've read.  She's a creature of the Goddess, That-of-Goddess, herself.  Why should she be known only in reference to some guy?  Besides, if she's coming into my life as some sort of spirit guide, she needs her own name.  Well, I expect She'll share Her name when she's good and ready; but perhaps in the meantime you all can help me come up with a place-holder name for Her of Her own, other than "Balaam's ass."

Recommended article: "How is rape defined?"

[Trigger warnings for explicit discussion of sexually assaultive behaviors.] 

This includes a brief but excellent table comparing the laws regarding sexual assault and rape in Sweden, England and Wales, Scotland, the US, and Germany. 


  • What is the legal definition of rape?
  • How is consent understood?
  • What is meant by incapacity?
  • Can a woman be charged with rape?
  • Spousal rape
  • What is the maximum penalty?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Recommended article: "A response to George Galloway, and what we mean by consent"

-- Note: Content and trigger warnings for rape culture and rape.

The very short version, in case you've missed it in the news: George Galloway, Respect Party MP for  Bradford West in the UK, claimed that if a man has sex with a woman while she is asleep, it is not rape:

This response post is one of the best I've seen -- much better than ones which are getting much more play on teh interwebs -- and I invite you to read it, for oh so many reasons.

"A response to George Galloway, and what we mean by consent"

A few points:  

Because the way I read [your remarks], my body, as the common parlance would suggest, is ‘fair game’ to anyone who has ever had sexual access to it. If those people tried to have sex with me without my consent, it seems you believe they would merely be guilty of ‘bad sexual etiquette’, rather than rape. 

I love the way the author puts this plainly and calls it out -- the dangerous idea, which so many persist in clinging to, that sex without consent is no big deal, rather than something life-threatening and life-changing -- that sex without consent equals "bad sexual etiquette’, rather than rape." 

The recognition that women are not the sexual property of their partners is one reason why marital rape was made a crime in this country in 1991. And why we don’t have laws that recognise degrees of rape. Such degrees don’t exist.

Consent is not an absence of ‘no’. It is not a permanent state of being. It is the presence of an enthusiastic, mutual ‘yes’. It’s present, for example, when your partner is responding enthusiastically. It is NOT present when your partner is asleep, or when it’s dependent on using a condom and no condom is used, or when you’re trying to fight off a man pushing your legs apart (the other allegation made against Assange) and that woman is trying not to cry, or when, out of fear, you’ve frozen and can’t speak that ‘no’. Those are just a few examples of when consent is absent.
Consent is not a permanent state of being.   Consent once does not mean consent two times, three times, or an infinite number of times.  

Read the full article here.  It's short and a (relatively) easy read.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Words That Are Biphobic, and Why

Yesterday, I shared a poster about words that are transphobic, and why they are transphobic ( 

The same organization that produced that poster, the UC Davis Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center, also has this wonderful poster, "Words That Are Biphobic and Why," available at

Biphobia and discrimination against bisexual people are real, folks, and cause real harm. 

I encourage you to challenge these words and phrases when you hear them -- whether you hear yourself saying them, or someone else saying them.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Words That Are Transphobic, and Why

I saw this fabulous poster and wanted to share it, especially since some readers have requested clarification about language which is transphobic vs language which is well-meaning but uninformed.

This is from the UC Davis Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center.  It can be found at

They say:

"Click here to download the Words That are Transphobic and Why poster. Feel free to print and display it in your office, classroom, or room to remind everyone to be more conscientious of the words we use in our everyday interactions."

So... here it is. 

Another reason marriage equality matters for kids

Marriage equality is not only about justice for the adults involved.  It's also about what's best for all our kids: 

With only one legal parent, children in gay households are not entitled to health and Social Security benefits, inheritance rights or child support from the other parent. If a gay couple splits up, only the legal parent has custody rights.

Steven and Roger could re-adopt the kids somewhere else that allows same-sex couples to adopt together, but it is expensive, about $1,500 for each child. Steven says there always seems to be more pressing financial needs.

Read more in this article about how two dads, in a state where they can't marry, co-adopt, or adopt each other's children, finally managed to get both their names on all their children's birth certificates, with some help:
Gay dads, 12 kids are officially a family

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Recommended article: Asher's "Not Your Mom's Trans 101"

Well, except it could be, depending on who your mom is. 

I read this article a long time back, and my F/friend Nancy passed it on to me again recently.  It was definitely helpful for me to re-read it. 

I'm recommending it for a couple of reasons -- it answers a bunch of questions raised by commenters on some recent posts about transphobia, cissexism, being an ally, and languge; it brings up some more good ways to help change our thinking around gender and sex; it's another good, and interesting, resource for cisgender people. 

So, here you go. 

Not Your Mom's Trans 101

There is a huge problem with the way that people are taught about gender in this society. Children are indoctrinated early to believe that there are two sexes, corresponding with two genders, which are both immutable and non-voluntary and completely beyond our control. This worldview is called the gender binary, and it has no room in it for us.

Trying to teach a new perspective to the victims of this extremely aggressive brainwashing can be daunting. In fact, the task can seem downright impossible. The temptation, therefore, is to “dumb things down” for the benefit of a cisgender audience. This situation has given rise to a set of oversimplifications collectively known as “Trans 101.” These rather absurd tropes, such as “blank trapped in a blank’s body” cause confusion among even well-meaning cis folks, feed internalized transphobia among us trans people, and  provide endless straw-man fodder for transphobic ‘radical feminists,’ entitled cisgender academics, and other bigots.

Near the beginning of my transition, I myself taught “Trans 101” this way. Because I didn’t know any better. Because I had been taught to think of myself in terms of these same useless tropes, as an “FTM,” as a “female man,” as somebody who was “changing sexes.” Eventually, through a lot of intense discussions and a lot of tough love from people who were more knowledgeable, more radical, and more politically sophisticated than myself, I came to see things very differently.

I haven’t tried to teach Trans 101 since extracting my head from my rectum. But I think the time has come for me to tackle the problem of explaining and defining what it means to be transgender without resorting to cissexist language. It strikes me as I contemplate this task that Trans 101 is generally not only dumbed-down, but also declawed. There are truths that I must speak here that are incredibly threatening to a cissupremacist worldview, that attack its very foundations. But I for one am willing to do that. I am not here to make cis people comfortable or to reassure them that they are still the center of the gendered universe. In fact, I am totally fine with doing the opposite.

Without further ado, let’s begin.