LGBT Rights Beyond the US

LGBT Rights Beyond the US

I was asked by a friend to help publicize the upcoming local events of Rev. Mark Kiyimba, a Unitarian Universalist who is fighting for LGBT rights in Uganda. There are a number of events happening in the next couple of weeks – a bar reception, film screenings, a legal lecture at Hamline Law, small group conversations, and he is preaching at a few congregations as well! Read on for something that may be of interest to you.

Wingspan Ministry of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church 100 N. Oxford, St. Paul, MN 55104 is pleased to host Rev. Mark Kiyimba from Uganda for a series of presentations about our LGBT brothers and sisters in Uganda:

Mark Kiyimba is a Unitarian Universalist (UU) pastor based in Kampala, Uganda. Mark is also an outspoken faith Ally for LGBT persons in Uganda. His visible and vocal support for LGBT rights has put him in personal danger at times; he spent much of 2011 out of the country because of death threats. Currently Mark is pastor to two Unitarian churches, one just outside of Kampala, the other in Masaka, about 150 miles to the west in his home region. Each church has a school connected to it. The larger school, in Masaka, serves about 600 children, including a large number of AIDS orphans and abandoned children. Besides his role as a parish pastor, Mark works tirelessly as an advocate for greater understanding toward LGBT persons and for their civil rights, as well as for interfaith respect in a country where conservative religiosity is the norm across all traditions. Additionally, Mark offers his office in Kampala as a gathering place for many LGBT activists, providing safe space for them to network with each other. In 2012 Mark received the National Education Association’s Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights, for his work in human rights and its significant impact on education and equal opportunity for those facing discrimination due to their sexual orientation.

Contact for more information: David Weiss – drw59@comcast.net.

Download flier with all Kiyimba Events

Large Events

Friday, November 1

Film: “God Loves Uganda,” a powerful new documentary on the role of American Christianity in fomenting (and sometimes fighting) homophobia in Uganda. Screening co-sponsored with OUT Twin Cities Film Festival and hosted by All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church (3100 Park Ave. S., Minneapolis). Fri., Nov. 1, 7:30-10pm. NO CHARGE; freewill offering received. Discussion afterwards with Rev. Mark Kiyimba.

Download Film Poster

Saturday, November 2

Fundraiser reception for Rev. Mark Kiyimba hosted by The Saloon (830 Hennepin Ave., Mpls). Come meet Mark, enjoy a drink and some appetizers, and support his work on behalf of LGBT persons on Uganda. Sat., Nov. 2, 7-10pm, in the Fire Bar. NO COVER CHARGE; donations appreciated.

Download Event Poster

Tuesday, November 5

Presentation: “Human Rights Conditions of LGBTI Persons in Africa: Toward International Solutions” at Hamline University (1536 Hewitt Ave., St. Paul). Rev. Mark Kiyimba, along with Amy Bergquist from Advocates for Human Rights, sponsored by Stonewall Alliance of the Hamline University Law School. Tues., Nov. 5, 4-5pm. in Law School Building, Room 105.

Download Stonewall Flier

Other events

(These events are aimed primarily at their respective communities, but all are open to the public.)

Sunday, October 27

Rev. Mark Kiyimba preaches at St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church (100 N. Oxford St., St. Paul), 8:00am & 10:30am. followed by light luncheon in Lower Auditorium at noon.

Tuesday, October 29

“Conviction & Courage in Uganda: An Ally’s Journey” at Hamline University (1536 Hewitt Ave., St. Paul), 11:20am-12:40pm, in Drew Science, Room 118.

“The Struggle for LGBT Rights in Uganda: An Inside Perspective” at Augsburg College (2211 Riverside Ave., Mpls), 7pm, in the Christensen Center, East Commons.

Wednesday, October 30

“Ministry to LGBT Persons in a Time of Peril,” at Luther Seminary (2481 Como Ave., St. Paul), 11:30am-12:30pm in the Olson Campus Center, Dining Room C (lunch available for purchase in cafeteria).

Thursday, October 31

“The Struggle for LGBT Rights in Uganda: An Inside Perspective” at Macalester College (1600 Grand Ave., St. Paul), noon-1pm, Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel. Refreshments 11:30am-noon in the Chapel basement.

Sunday, November 3

Rev. Mark Kiyimba preaches at Minnesota Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (10715 Zenith Avenue South Bloomington, MN 55431), 10:30am.

Tuesday, November 5

Preaching in Bigelow Chapel at United Theological Seminary (3000 5th Street Northwest, New Brighton)11:35am-12:05pm, followed by lunch with members of the seminary community.

Friday, November 8

Film: “God Loves Uganda,” a powerful new documentary on the role of American Christianity in fomenting (and sometimes fighting) homophobia in Uganda. Hosted by UUCM Social Justice Ministry of Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka. (605 Rice Street Wayzata, MN 55391) Fri., Nov. 8, 7-9pm. Discussion afterwards with Rev. Mark Kiyimba.

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Why I <3 Daniel Radcliffe

NOTE: This is a post was originally posted February 23, 2012 on the Humanist Community Project —HarvardHumanist.org

No, I’m not a crazed Harry Potter fan. In fact I’ve only made it through one and a half of the books (I got bored honestly). I do plan on going back at some point because I’ve heard bits and pieces of some of the material that didn’t make it into the movies and I find some of the class politics of the magical world interesting. The movies were really fun fantasy epics that I appreciate and that is as far as my Potter-fandom goes.

My Radcliffe-fandom however has only increased since the last movie wrapped.

Over the past year or so, articles have been flying about the interwebs about quotes and interviews where Radcliffe has been open about his atheism, this has been especially useful when I speak to people about humanism and can now add to my famous non-theists a younger person who almost everyone can recognize. Sorry to the many great intellectuals and famous folks that are non-theists, but while Sam Harris is quite dashing, people don’t look at his photo and recognize him as one of their favorite characters of their childhood (or adulthood for the older fans).

So Radcliff is an atheist and that is neat (and useful for talks) but what REALLY has me using less-than-three emoticons around his name is his charity work, specifically the Trevor Project but the broader story here is that atheists, humanists, and non-theists do good work. We are motivated to help those in need not based on heavenly reward but from an deep impulse to help fellow human beings, or as I like to say, we are motivated not from without, but from within.

 

And if you ❤ Daniel as much as I do, you will probably ❤ ❤ ❤ the Humanist Graduate Community at Harvard (HGCH), which, for its third annual Spring Break Service Trip, will travel to LA to work with the Trevor Project (http://www.thetrevorproject.org/) and other groups that support LGBT youth in crisis.

The Reliability of Change: why religion matters to this humanist

Post 8 of 40 of the Humanist Lent Writing Project

In my part of the world, that of urban liberal college campuses (my day job is on a campus) it seems the world is oh so gay (not meant as a pejorative for once). I’ve got LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) colleagues, friends, family members. Queer-headed families are part of the norm for me. So are pride festivals, conferences overflowing with people who bend just about any identity one can imagine. My religious community has queer folk all around raising kids, serving coffee, speaking from pulpits. I say this to show what my normal level is (which for some may seem heavenly, or Gomorrahesque depending on your outlook).

Now, one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in recent memory was one that was filled to the brim with religion, there was god language, shawls, mats, labyrinths, religious texts, smudging, calling the quarters, singing, dancing, and yes even Humanists and atheists. Not only was this one of the most religiously diverse experiences I’ve ever been in but it was also one of the queerest. At the beginning of February in Minneapolis after months of planning the national gay and lesbian task force came to Minneapolis. And not only did it bring a whole lot of LGBT folk, it packed a whole lot of spirit and faith as well. During the larger annual conference called Creating Change, another mini conference happened called Practice Spirit, Do Justice (PSDJ). There were moment when the two blurred in some amazing ways but what happened at PSDJ seemed to be somehow a special hidden area as well.

For this gay humanist it couldn’t have been more fun. I saw religious leaders both queer and allies talking about things lgbt people rarely seem to get together to talk about, god and how we as a movement in tat wit this notion. How religion is a part of our society and can hinder as well as help LGBT people achieve the equality we are working for. I met gay and gay friendly Mormons, Lutherans, Jews, Muslims, Native American Elders, Atheists, Quakers, Buddhists, Pagans, Wiccans, and so many more traditions during these few short days. I’ve been thinking about the LGBT families and individuals in religious spaces for a while now. I see this area of society as crucially important for us to move forward. I think we have done a lot in the secular arena very quickly, lots of amazing things that people just a little older than I couldn’t imagine happening in their lifetime and people just a little younger barely noticing as new and different.

We’ve done this great work by building some walls and opting out of spaces. Important walls that helped people who had been hurt by the religions they trusted and the families they loved. Opted out of the communities that turned their backs. We’ve built new families, communities, homes, religious groups, and spaces to heal. But I feel like things are changing, in church-time, about a decade or two after we would like. But they are changing none the less. This is something we can’t ignore or belittle, there have always been individuals and congregations here and there that have gone against the fray and opened the circle. There have been whole denominations, though they tended to be smaller ones, less “mainstream” or the ones we’ve created ourselves as LGBT people have done time and again when they couldn’t find what they need in the mainstream. But now, finally the small overtures and special rules that sometimes have allowed gay people to participate, and sometimes have taken that away are becoming something more. Clergy are able to be out; we are starting to be able to be married in places of worship and be out in religious choirs, and in the church office; and we are being recognized as being in the pews already. We aren’t those gays out there; we are the congregants already at the table.

By showing up to the table and refusing to give up our seat we do create change. Slowly, continuously, but just existing in places that sometime don’t want us or feel safe we are less the other and more just a committee member or coffee server. It isn’t always dramatic but these constant interactions where we just are start to pile up. We just are on tv, we just are at the office, we just are getting the mail. We just are. And by being in places that might not have always wanted us we are doing amazing things, life saving things.

Now, you might be wondering why a humanist cares. I gave up the Christian space long ago, as a gay man, as a nonbeliever, as someone who was left feeling betrayed by religion. I’ve found my spaces, created some, joined others, and have a life that goes over, under, and between places I don’t want to be. Why does what happens in the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church matter to me when I can go about my merry gay humanist life without walking through the doors ever again? Because our communities’ children are in those places I’ve fought to opt out of, as many have. Our children or in the places next door to the MCC churches we’ve built, the liberal synagogues we’ve founded. LGBT people are unique in a lot of ways, but one way that I would argue we are different than almost any minority group in the world; we rarely create and raise the next generation of our community.

So I learned a lot about religious community, religious organizing, progressive faith, and the power of building bridges at Practice Spirit, Do Justice. But the lesson that finally hit home for me is that we truly are everywhere. And while it is true that it is pretty rare for LGBT people to be raised by LGBT people (though it does happen) it is also true that I know a lot of nontheists, religious liberals, and other people in my life that grew up in religious spaces that didn’t work and even hurt them. Most of the amazing LGBT religious leaders and our allies are not a part of the religion of their childhood either. So opting back in to religious conversation doesn’t just help LGBT youth, it helps humanists youth, atheist youth, Unitarian youth, and so many other young people that could grow up to be amazing agents of change from within the traditions we’ve left. While it is true that gay people are making change by just being who they are in spaces that might not be comfortable all the time, the same is true for those who don’t believe in god. Just being who we are as nontheists at work, school, and in conversations changes minds. Five years ago I didn’t think I would have worked three years at a church, voted for and elected an African American president, or have ten countries around the world recognize same-sex marriages as equal. That is in five short years. Now imagine how much the world could change in the next five? What if instead of arguing with so much of the world we had conversations? I’m excited to see how much my showing up time and again in religious spaces changes them. I’m betting in ways I can’t even imagine.

Beginning a Conversation

Around the age of fourteen I began to realize the way I viewed the world was quite different from most of my peers. It was around this age that I started to think of myself as gay. I didn’t come out until I was eighteen but I had a clear sense of my sexuality by this age. I also knew my sexuality could cause problems for myself, so I chose to keep that part of my identity largely hidden through my secondary school years. It was also at this age that my sexual identity and my involvement within a conservative Christian faith became irreconcilable. Once, in confirmation class, I joined two friends in questioning what we were being taught that it provoked the pastor into storming out the room. It was around this point that I saw my perspective simply was no longer compatible with the faith system of my family. I was Confirmed about a year later (I have a persuasive mother), and the next day I left the church for good.

After that point I spent quite a few years trying to figure out what I believed, not what I should believe. I landed on atheism fairly quickly. I continued to read about other faith systems, but I didn’t find anything that really appealed to me. Some areas of study that fascinated me included earth-based spirituality, the old mythologies, the new/redeux Wiccan movement, and others. Such studies intrigued me intellectually but didn’t work as a belief system.

Along with my religious studies I found organizations to participate in within the LGBT community. Community organizing and working within non-profits that were helping to strengthen the LGBT community were a way for me to pair my values and my identity with finding a rewarding career path.

After college I also began to revisit my religious viewpoints, and I found them wanting. I had formulated a strong identity around my sexuality, yet there still lacked compatibility between my sexual and religious identities. I would never identify my sexuality by what I was not (I do not identify as “not-straight” for instance) so why must the religious component of my life be based on a negative identity — that I didn’t believe in god?

I did some research and reading to find something that worked while being honest to my worldview. What I found was humanism. Humanism, as defined by the American Humanist Association, is a progressive lifestance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. As a humanist I was also looking for community and a place to continue to learn and grow. I was looking for a religious community; just one without god.

You might be wondering “if there isn’t a belief in god, why have a religious community?” or “isn’t god really the point of religion and religious communities?” I would answer that while god or gods are oftentimes a crucial part of the religious service that a belief in god isn’t the only reason why religious communities happen. The real driving factor in religious life comes down to an ability to connect with other people; not god. Many faiths have ways for the individual believer to connect to their deity, so why travel to a building to be with others who share your beliefs? It comes down to that very human craving for community – to have people to come to when you experience both crisis and joy. I may not believe that people praying for me will help solve my problems, but I still want other people to be with when I am in need. It truly makes me feel better to know they care, and people help others in very real ways when something goes wrong.

Not only is there opportunity to help when an individual is having a problem, but through community there can big an impact on larger issues: homelessness, natural disasters, or environmental issues. Religious community also creates a way to raise children in a particular ethical environment. All of these things have very little to do with a deity and everything to do with human beings interacting with each other, trying to work together through a world where things sometimes go awry.

The religious home I found was a Unitarian Universalist congregation that specifically identifies itself as both Humanist and Unitarian Universalist (UU). This particular flavor of UU community (First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis) meets all of my needs. It is a place where theological questions can be studied and discussed, yet it isn’t there to tell you what to believe. It is also an open and affirming place to LGBT individuals and families and works for change in the Minneapolis area on a variety of social justice issues.

Beyond finding a place to connect with people around what I believe, I found a place to make friendships and support causes that I believe in. During this process I also found the Humanist Institute, a national graduate program working to create leaders within the humanist movement. Through this program I am deepening my knowledge of humanism, theology, philosophy, and developing leadership skills.

What amazes me today is how more and more people are finding the spiritual path that works for them; not the one that worked or didn’t work for their parents and grandparents. A tremendous number of people in the United States now change their religious affiliation at least once in their lifetime. For more information about this and a good introduction to current Humanism, I invite you to read Good Without God by Greg Epstein. I hope this means that people are working to find what works for them, and I hope more LGBT people are doing this as well. For too long we have been a community that works for change in secular society, often shutting down conversation around the theological areas of our lives. I believe this comes from the poor treatment many of us have received from religious communities and the very loud religious right. I must continue to remind myself that there also exists a religious left. They are our allies and they are members of our community and our movement.

My hope with this blog is to build bridges. I hope to have a place here for the many types of non-believers out there and the organizations that support them. I hope to create connections between those of us who don’t believe, those that do, and those who are trying to figure it out. I hope we come to recognize the great contributions both secular and religious organizations have been making to promote our causes.

I have a hunch that there are many folks out there who struggle with those big questions about how the world works and find that many religious paths no longer make sense to them. I hope that this blog will help people find a place that does make sense.

I believe we are more powerful when we can bring our whole selves to the table, when we can be honest about what we believe in and what we don’t and build connections within and between communities that respect this difference along with the multitude of other ways we differ.

Beyond Welcoming Churches: Faith Organizing with Non-Christian Identities

coexist

Image credit: andy-pants.deviantart.com

Presenters:

  • Becky Saltzman & Kevin Watson

Location:

5th Annual Minnesota OUT! Campus Conference

by Minnesota GLBTA Campus Alliance
November 13, 2010

Slides & Resources:

Description:

There is often a tension when people of faith are out when organizing within LGBT communities, this can often also be the case when a person is out as LGBT in faith communities and organizing within them. How does one do their work when they are the minority in both of these settings? In this workshop we hope to discuss what happens when a person identifies as LGBT as well as a person of non-Christian faith. Much of the hostility towards people of faith within LGBT communities comes from the extremists within each religion, but because of this many groups, especially on college campuses, solve this issue by ignoring and removal religion from their programming. This can create an unwelcoming feeling for those that feel the need to leave their faith identity at the door, especially when they are a non-Christian faith.

We hope to address the idea that religion and spirituality can invigorate and center one’s organizing depending on how it is done. We hope to show and validate that one can be queer and spiritual and work with those that may not have the same beliefs as us without discounting faith work. We also hope to call out the intersection between faith organization and other social justice organizing including LGBT and how denial and hostility towards the existence of the intersection in -some- organizers can hurt our movements as a whole. Lastly we want to discuss how to work as a queer person of faith who is not part of this culture’s dominant religious tradition. For too long we’ve been a community that works for change in secular society and often shut down conversation around the spiritual areas of our lives.

This discussion can be a place to speak to our whole selves and how bringing all of who we are to the table creates a more powerful and effective movement.

Same-Sex Marriage, Summer of Love

NOTE: This is a post from a previous blog-venture — FromOurPerspective.com — It was posted August 10, 2010 a lot has changed in the world of same-sex/similar-sex marriage since then!

Same-sex marriage has been a subject of political, social, and legal debate for a number of years and recently has been gaining ground in the United States and around the world. A total of ten countries now recognize full marriage equality for same-sex couples (list below). The first country to legalize marriage was the Netherlands in 2001, and since that time one or two countries have followed suit every couple of years. The interesting thing to me is that the countries per year seem to be picking up steam. In 2009 two countries made the move to legalize (Sweden and Norway). While these places are relatively similar geographically and culturally,the most interesting series of events took place within the first seven months of 2010.

So far this year Portugal, Iceland, and Argentina have all moved to legalize same-sex marriage nationally. Additionally, Mexico has ordered that same-sex marriages performed in Mexico City be recognized nationwide. At a time when the United States has a pat work of differing laws from state to state, an increasing number of our neighbors (geographically as well as culturally) are making national level changes.

In addition to the three countries mentioned above, California’s controversial Proposition 8, which took away the momentary right same-sex marriage, has been overruled. This ruling by a federal judge is popularly considered to be the case that will move up to the United States Supreme Court and give a national ruling.

So during this summer we have seen an unprecedented number a nations legalize same-sex marriage and movement in that direction for the United States. The reason I am writing about this topic now is that I feel this year is an important moment in the fast-paced history of the debate around marriage equality. I also think that by the end of 2010 even more countries will be added to the list of those with full legal equality for same-sex couples.

As a millennial moving into my mid-twenties, the subjects of marriage and starting a family are culturally being moved from the back of my mind to the front. I see those of similar ages having children and getting married. It is exciting to speculate that my generation may be one of the first where this is happening for both my LGBT friends and straight allies. I am the product of a generation that came out at eighteen or even earlier (and the average age is only getting lower and lower), is dating and figuring out relationships at similar ages to my straight peers, and has the ability to start a family with at least some legal protections. Less than ten years ago this wasn’t the case for most people; individuals tended to come out later in life or remain in relationships in order to hide their true selves.

While I may or may not be married by the time i am thirty, I believe that by the time I am thirty I will have the full legal right to do so anywhere in the United States and in many more countries throughout the world. Additionally, i believe that I will be able to adopt a child (either with a legally married same-sex partner or on my own) with out having to lie about my sexuality to the adoption agency. Lastly, I believe that more and more religious communities will welcome these individuals and their new families. Already many religious traditions have or are in the process of opening their doors to the opening LGBT individual and their family.

It is a new world for this twenty-something gay man. I have a partner of three years whose little sister was recently married and they have a small child. My partner’s mother keeps wondering about our plans for the future, especially in the baby department. Our friends are asking us about wedding plans and other friends keep on showing me engagement rings (for him to buy for me). While it is exciting to be part of this aspect of the larger culture, which I never really considered I would be when growing up, it also adds new pressures and things to think about.

What are other LGBT people thinking about in regards to families, adoption, the marriage debate, etc?

Current Countries Where Same-Sex Marriage is Legal:

  • Mexico (Mexico City) – August 10, 2010 *
  • Argentina (July 22, 2010)
  • Iceland (June 27, 2010)
  • Portugal (June 5, 2010)
  • Sweden (2009)
  • Norway (2009)
  • South Africa (2006)
  • Canada (2005)
  • Spain (2005)
  • Belgium (2003)
  • the Netherlands (2001)