Monday, August 19, 2013

Homeless Vision Project Needs Your Help

Support The Project Here

Moved by biblical stories that restore sight and the ways the vision can improve the quality of life, work prospects and health of homeless and low income individuals, the Homeless Vision Project will create vision events in 10 cities across the United States and enable at least 400 individuals to obtain prescription glasses by the end of 2014.

This project not only helps fix a tangible barrier between many individuals and employment, it enables homeless folk to hear "yes" and have a good experience with local service agencies. Often times this helps individuals who have been chronically homeless for a decade to learn about the ways that support systems have approved and accept the help they may have previously rejected.

One of our events will take place on the Big Island of Hawaii where native Hawaiians are 4x's a likely to have diabetes. Our vision care will not only help 40 individuals obtain free prescription glasses, but also screen for ocular diseases and degeneration.

Locations will be chosen based on the need in the area, the ability to partner with congregations and non-profits who will follow up with the individuals after the event, alignment with other programs led by Welcome and the locations of donors (any city or region with donations of $2,000 or more will become a site of a vision event).

Click Here to Support the Project

Zanderology Film Get's Exceeds Funding Goals on Kick Starter

$1,810 was raised on Kickstarter to fund Zanderology!

Zanderology is a study of transitions. Born dead, this former gang member, mental patient and undercover cop becomes a social worker.

A project by the co-editors of Letters For My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect (a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award).

Zanderology is for anyone who has ever wondered if people are capable of changing in profound ways.  Zander was born dead, woke up from a coma and recovered from partial paralysis, was a juvenile delinquent, lived in a residential mental hospital, has been a sailor, an undercover cop, a social worker and is a transsexual.

This film seeks to empower others to live into their fullest potential, by telling Zander's story.

As I was looking over the footage from Zander's story and trying to decide what to share,  I thought about sharing the tales of his professional psychic mother's illegal side projects,  how Zander transitioned spiritually, or Zander's heartwarming reflections about how he inherited his drive from his father.

The clip above is a small part of the story of Zander's almost decade long transition from a self professed dyke who participated in the Lesbian Avengers to a trans man.  If you want to hear all the details of that transition, you'll have to wait for the film.  But, for now, I wanted to share with you a bit of the end of the story.

The joy Zander expresses in talking about the experience of being a man is palpable.  Certainly, it's a familiar "it get's better" kind of tale.  More importantly this film never apologizes for or tries to rationalize any of Zander's transitions. 

In the News: The Washington Post

What transgender people teach us about God, and our humanity

A same sex marriage advocate waves a rainbow flag at a protest in Los Angeles. (Jae C. Hong/AP )
(Jae C. Hong/AP )
“Ultimately, the transgender question is about more than just sex. It’s about what it means to be human.” – Russell D. Moore, On Faith, Aug. 15

There are certainly more egregious quotes from Moore’s recent essay, but to focus on them would miss the larger point – that there is no transgender question. The question is about how people of faith continue to grow in their understanding of our transgender brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, teachers and pastors.  And it’s a growth that, make no mistake, Mr. Moore wants to shut down.

In order to grow, one must leave the ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ framework behind. Mr. Moore relies on this narrow, tired and, frankly, dangerous argument to denounce transgender experience as sinful.

Now I don’t think Mr. Moore or the Southern Baptist convention lacks caring or compassion. In fact, I work Southern Baptists in our shared efforts to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in faith communities and beyond. But Moore’s argument is dangerous because it discourages a curiosity about the actual lived experiences of trans people. He’s shutting down any deeper conversation and, in the process, dampening our understanding of how the spark of the divine exists in all of us.

What would happen if rather than depicting transgender people as “fac[ing] a long road of learning what it means to live as God created them to be, as male or female,” we actually took seriously the question of what it means to be human and, more expansively, what it means to live into our full humanity? What if rather than saying that biology is destiny we actually explored the ways in which we all experience our own gender identities and expressions? What if we learned about the lived experiences of our transgender peers?

I remember riding my bike with my brother on a family outing as a child. It was hot and I took off my shirt. My mother’s face turned beet red as she loudly declared, “Little girls do not take their shirts off.” I was 11-years-old.  Just the year before, I ran around impervious to such rules. No one cared. It was then that I learned gender had rules with consequences. I think often of that moment when I think of my transgender friends and colleagues.

My friend and colleague Jay Brown, a transgender man, remembers going to bed each night as a 5-year-old child. He remembers clenching his little hands and praying that he would wake up the boy on the outside that he felt on the inside. He remembers keeping that secret because, even at 5, he knew there’d be consequences.

I would wager to say we all had such moments when our gender identities were defined not by our biology, but by the dictates of our culture – whether or not we are transgender.

The core teachings of Christianity are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. We cannot love God fully if we don’t do the work of trying to understand who God is for each of us. When we look at the most moving and transformative religious writing – from Augustine to Thomas Merton – there is a sense of openness and curiosity to the experience of God.  We can’t love God if we don’t try to glean how God works in our lives.
Similarly, we can’t really love our neighbors if we cast off all curiosity about who they are and there experience of life in the world. And finally, if we remain uninterested in ourselves – about how we come to know our gender–then we can’t really love the difference that shows up in our neighbors.
The variation of transgender experience has much to teach us.  I was struck that in Moore’s piece he didn’t reference the experience of one transgender person.  He’s missing an enormous diversity both in the experiences of faith and of gender identity and expression.

Experiences like that of Joy Ladin, a  friend who transitioned while she was teaching at an Yeshiva University, or like Rev. David Weekley, a United Methodist minister who became one of the first openly transgender clergy members after coming out to his congregation about his transition decades prior. These experiences of faith and gender are different again from Rev. Megan Rohrer, an openly gay Lutheran pastor, whose own gender non-conformity provides a unique understanding of those on the margins, many of whom are the homeless community she pastors to in San Francisco.

To live our lives with true compassion and caring, we need to move beyond slogans and ask the deeper questions about gender and the diversity of experiences.   But to do that, one must ask the right question and be open to a multitude of answers.

Sharon Groves, Director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Religion and Faith Program.

Friday, August 2, 2013

New Living Lutheran Blog Post: Finding Grace in a New Way

Over the last year I have been working with Amanda Zentz, pastor of Central Lutheran in Portland, Ore., and Dawn Roginski, also a pastor, on a weekly, online Bible study. The project was created with start-up funds from the Domestic Hunger Project to provide weekly opportunities to talk about how the Bible readings each week could inspire people to respond to local poverty.

With 40-60 individuals participating each week, our online Bible study is larger than most congregational gatherings for Bible study that happen regularly at brick-and-mortar churches. Through social media, email and phone conversations, I’ve also been able to provide pastoral support, prayers and collegial support to the community participating in the study.

Last month I got to witness the literal fruits of our Bible study when my grandmother and I took a road trip to Chamberlain, S.D. There we visited Maria, one the most active participants in our online study, and visited the community gardens that Maria lovingly tends with other community members to grow produce for local food pantries and the domestic violence shelter.

Read the rest of the blog post at